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Minuteman III test launch showcases readiness of U.S. nuclear force’s safe, effective deterrent

A team of U.S. Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center experts supported the recent launch of an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile to verify its accuracy and reliability, providing valuable data to ensure this safe, secure, effective nuclear deterrent is ready every day to defend the United States and its allies.

Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test re-entry vehicle from Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., at 12:49 a.m., PDT, Aug. 16, 2022, to demonstrate the readiness of U.S. nuclear forces and provide confidence in the lethality and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear deterrent.

This test launch is part of routine and periodic activities intended to demonstrate that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, reliable and effective to deter 21st century threats and reassure our allies. Such tests have occurred more than 300 times before, and this test is not the result of current world events.

The ICBM’s re-entry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. These 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.

“Make no mistake — our nuclear triad is the cornerstone of the national security of our country and of our allies around the globe,” said Col. Chris Cruise, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander. “This scheduled test launch is demonstrative of how our nation’s ICBM fleet illustrates our readiness and reliability of the weapon system. It is also a great platform to show the skill sets and expertise of our strategic weapons maintenance personnel and of our missile crews who maintain an unwavering vigilance to defend the homeland.”

The test launch is a culmination of months of preparation that involve multiple government partners. The Airmen who perform this vital mission are some of the most skillfully trained and educated the Air Force has to offer.

Airmen with the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., and 91st Missile Wing at Minot AFB, N.D., were selected for the task force to support the test launch. The three missile bases have crew members standing alert 24 hours a day year-round, overseeing the nation’s ICBM alert forces.

“Our test launches are scheduled well in advance and are not reactionary to world events,” said Maj. Armand Wong, Task Force commander. “A meticulous planning process for each launch begins six months to a year prior to launch. Our best Airmen from each of the three missile wings worked in conjunction with the 576th Flight Test Squadron to proudly showcase some very technical skills that comprise the heart of our nuclear deterrence mission.”

The ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and U.S. Strategic Command, uses data collected from test launches for continuing force development evaluation. The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational capability of the Minuteman III and ensures the United States’ ability to maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent as a key element of U.S. national security and the security of U.S. allies and partners.

Air Force Global Strike Command is a major command with headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., in the Shreveport-Bossier City community. The command overseas the nation’s three intercontinental ballistic missile wings; the Air Force’s entire bomber force, to include B-52, B-1 and B-2 wings; the Long Range Strike Bomber program; Air Force Nuclear Command, Control and Communications systems; and operational and maintenance support to organizations within the nuclear enterprise. Approximately 33,700 professionals are assigned to two numbered Air Forces, nine wings, two geographically-separated squadrons and one detachment in the continental United States and deployed to locations around the globe.

The LGM-35A Sentinel ICBM will replace the Minuteman III with an initial operational capability in 2029. Until full operational capability of the Sentinel is achieved in the mid-2030s, the Air Force is committed to ensuring Minuteman III remains a viable deterrent.

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