Vandenberg Air Force Base launched a nuke-capable missile early this morning, June 30 — the second of three operational flight tests for the Minuteman III missile this fiscal year, as reported in a Vandenberg press release.
The Minuteman III is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) designed with nuclear capabilities but tested with conventional weapons; about 450 missiles are reported to exist in the U.S.
The 576th Flight Test Squadron installed tracking, telemetry, and command destruct systems on the missile, according to the release, and looked to gauge the missile’s reliability and accuracy. It traveled 4,200 miles before reaching its destination in the Marshall Islands.
Another Minuteman III test took place about two weeks ago, on June 16, and was reported successful: “Any mission that collects data to test and evaluate mandatory objectives is considered a successful test,” said Major Chris Karns of the Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs.
Karns reported that flight tests are forecast five years in advance, based on the availability of the missile’s testing range. The third launch is reportedly scheduled for September, with next year’s schedule forecasting launches in March, July, and August.
According to Vandenberg historic records, the today marked the 1,900th launch for Vandenberg AFB since the Air Force assumed the mission in 1957.
“This 1,900th launch marks another milestone in the history of Vandenberg and the contribution Vandenberg has had as not only contributing to the nation’s security, but also a continuing player in our nuclear deterrence role and overall space and missile launch history of the United States,” said Col. Steven Winters, the 30th Space Wing vice commander and the Launch Decision Authority for this launch.