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Unarmed missile from Minot AFB used in test launch

VANDENBERG AFB, Calif. – A team of Air Force Global Strike Command airmen launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test reentry vehicle at 12:03 a.m. Pacific Time on Wednesday Sept. 2 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The missile came from the 91st Missile Wing at Minot AFB but due to COVID restrictions, maintenance actions were performed by technicians from the 91st and 90th Maintenance Groups and missile combat crews were supplied by all three missile wings as well as the 576th Flight Test Squadron.

This demonstrates that even during the pandemic, Air Force Global Strike Command maintains various levels of redundant capability to assure a national deterrent, said Global Strike Command officials.

“This operational test launch was especially challenging considering the effects of the pandemic, but the task force from all three missile wings did an outstanding job coming together to accomplish this important mission,” said Maj. Patrick McAfee, Task Force commander. “From the deposture at Minot to reposture, alert and launch at Vandenberg, this team exhibited the professionalism they bring every day to our nation’s nuclear deterrent force.”

The two other missile wings are located at Malmstrom AFB, Montana, and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming.

The test demonstrates that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, reliable and effective to deter 21st century threats and reassure this nation’s allies. Test launches are not a response or reaction to world events or regional tensions, Global Strike Command officials said.

The ICBM’s reentry vehicle traveled about 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.

“This operational test launch is the culmination of months of hard work and preparation that involve multiple partners,” said Col. Omar Colbert, 576th Flight Test Squadron Commander. “I couldn’t be more impressed with the team that we partner with to successfully execute this mission. The men and women from the 90th, 91st and 341st Missile Wings, 576th FLTS, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, and the 30th Space Wing here at Vandenberg, among other mission partners, made this look easy, but it was far from that. Our phenomenal results are a testament to the dedication and professionalism of these proud organizations, and their hard work sends a visible message of deterrence to the world.”

The test launch is a culmination of months of preparation that involve multiple government partners.

The launch calendars are built three to five years in advance, and planning for each individual launch begins six months to a year prior to launch.

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