Home Air US Air Force completes first Minuteman III ICBM test of 2021

US Air Force completes first Minuteman III ICBM test of 2021

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operation test at 11:49 p.m. PT Feb. 23, 2021, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Photo: US Air Force

The US Air Force carried out this year’s first test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on February 24.

The missile was equipped with a test reentry vehicle and was launched by a team of Air Force Global Strike Command airmen.

“The test demonstrates that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, reliable and effective to deter twenty-first century threats and reassure our allies,” the service said in an announcement.

These test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.

“Our nation’s ICBM fleet stands ready 24/7,” said Lt. Gen. Anthony Cotton, deputy commander of Air Force Global Strike Command. “Operational tests validate our Minuteman III readiness and reliability. It further demonstrates to our citizens, our allies and our partners that men and women across three missile wings provide credible overwatch with a strategic deterrent that is safe, secure and effective.”

During this test, the ICBM’s reentry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Each Minuteman III test launch is a culmination of months of preparation that involves multiple government partners. This particular missile came from the 341st Missile Wing, with men and women supporting the launch from all three AFGSC missile wings as well as the 576th Flight Test Squadron.

“The Task Force traveled from all three operational missile wings and executed a successful test launch. The maintenance members showcased the resourcefulness and technical expertise that make them the backbone of the ICBM mission,” said Maj. Jesse Haskett, Task Force commander.

As frequently stated by the service, the test launches are not a response or reaction to world events or regional tensions as the launch calendars are built three to five years in advance, with planning for each individual launch beginning six months to a year prior to launch.