Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James visited the Central Coast this week for the first launch of the Minuteman III, which deployed Tuesday morning from the Vandenberg Air Force Base. Lifting off at 7:45 a.m., the unarmed rocket headed for a target thousands of miles across the Pacific in the vicinity of the Marshall Islands. Calling the experience “truly amazing,” James, who was appointed to the top position late last year, said in a statement that Tuesday was her first time observing a Minuteman III take off. “This test launch is a testament to the hard work, skill, and dedication of our nuclear airmen. They work every day to provide the nuclear deterrent capability that keeps our nation safe and secure, and I was privileged to witness their commitment to this mission firsthand,” James said.
Officials called the mission a “100 percent” success. “We constantly focus on flawless execution of our launch, range, and expeditionary missions. I am extremely proud of the collaboration between the 30th SW [Space Wing] and the 576th FLTS [Flight Test Squadron],” said Colonel Keith Balts, the 30th Space Wing commander. Air Force Global Strikes Command spokesperson Charles Ramey stressed the reason for these operational launches is to maintain the safety and security of the defense weaponry. The tests are scheduled on an as-need basis and are not preannounced far in advance. A version of the Minuteman III has been the U.S. nuclear deterrent for more than 50 years.