Home Air US tests Minuteman III ICBM three months after aborted launch

US tests Minuteman III ICBM three months after aborted launch

Minuteman III ICBM launch in August 2021
An unarmed Minuteman III ICBM launches from Vandenberg Space Force Base during an operational test on August 11. Photo: US Space Force

US Air Force Global Strike Command airmen launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, on August 11.

The latest launch involved a Hi Fidelity Joint Test Assembly re-entry vehicle that detonated conventional (i.e. non-nuclear) explosives prior to hitting the surface of the water approximately 4,200 miles downrange near Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

US airmen regularly test launch the Minuteman III to verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system. As always, the service stressed that these launches are not a response or reaction to world events or regional tensions.

Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren AFB, and 91st Missile Wing at Minot, 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.

The August 11 test follows a less successful one from May this year, when a fault during a Minuteman missile’s terminal countdown forced the service to abort the launch process.

“The US nuclear enterprise is the cornerstone of the security structure of the free world,” said Col. Omar Colbert, 576th Flight Test Squadron Commander. “Today’s test launch is just one example of how our nation’s ICBM fleet demonstrates operational readiness and reliability of the weapon system. It also allows us to showcase the amazing level of competence and capability of our airmen.”

After almost 60 years of Minuteman’s service, the service is looking to field a successor for the system in the mid-2030s. Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, the program that will replace the Minuteman III ICBM is expected to achieve an initial capability of 2029.