U.S. Air Force conducts test launch of unarmed Minuteman III ICBM from California

U.S. Air Force conducts test launch of unarmed Minuteman III ICBM from California

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The U.S. Air Force tested an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile with nuclear capabilities early Wednesday morning, as the Minuteman III launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at around 1:30 a.m. PT. 

The long-range missile carried three test reentry vehicles and traveled roughly 4,200 miles from its launch site to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the Air Force Global Strike Command said in a news release. Wednesday’s launch was one of at least 300 nuclear tests that occurred previously, according to the agency, which noted that the latest one it came as part of a wider program meant to “demonstrate that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, reliable and effective to deter twenty-first century threats and reassure our allies.” 

Calling the Minuteman III test launch an example of “routine and periodic activities” by the Air Force Global Strike Command, Wednesday’s news release clarified that “this test is not the result of current world events.”

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U.S. Space Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kadielle Shaw


“Test launches validate our deterrence capabilities to the American public and to our allies,” said Gen. Thomas Bussiere, a commander with the Air Force Global Strike Command, in a statement included in the release. The agency added that test launches like this one “verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.”

The Vandenberg Space Force Base, located along the Pacific Coast in Santa Barbara, shared a similar statement about the then-upcoming test launch in late August, saying it had been scheduled years in advance. U.S. officials notified the Russian government about their plans to carry out the test ahead of Wednesday’s launch, which is consistent with standard procedures under the Hague Code of Conduct, the space force base said.

The Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation was signed in November 2002 to regulate the use of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destructions, and has since increased its membership from 93 to 143 signatories. Members who have signed the Hague Code “voluntarily commit themselves politically to provide pre-launch notifications (PLNs) on ballistic missile and space-launch vehicle launches (SLVs) and test flights,” according to the official website for the agreement.

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