An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is scheduled to blast off from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Wednesday morning to test the weapon's accuracy and effectiveness. The missile will launch sometime between 1:44 a.m. and 7:44 a.m., base officials said.
In response to the launch, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will hold a protest Tuesday in downtown Santa Barbara, during which demonstrators will gather on the corner of State and Anapamu streets at noon to spread awareness of the continued testing of nuclear weapons.
The Minuteman III is the backbone of the U.S. Armed Forces' land-based nuclear weapon arsenal – around 450 of the weapons are stationed at various locations around the country. Lieutenant Colonel Ron Watrous of the Air Force Global Strike Command said Vandenberg typically test launches Minutemen three times a year. This is the base's first launch of the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
However, some civilian groups like the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation oppose the continued testing and development of nuclear weapons, saying land-based weapons like the Minuteman present a risk to local safety and global security alike, as their high-alert status and vulnerability contribute to a “use it or lose it” mentality.