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U.S. Tests Minuteman III Missile


An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 12:03 a.m., PDT, April 26, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California | Image by Senior Airman Ian Dudley/U.S. Air Force

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The U.S. military launched a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Tuesday after postponing the test last Spring to avoid escalating tensions with Russia over the war in Ukraine.

At 12:49 a.m. PT on August 16, the missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Barbara and flew over 4,000 miles to a target near Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, reported the Times of San Diego.

According to the Air Force Global Strike Command, the ICBM test launch program aims to validate and verify the weapon system’s safety, security, effectiveness, and readiness. Space Launch Delta 30 Vice Commander Colonel Bryan Titus made the launch decision.

“Tonight’s success is due to the hard work and dedication of Guardians and Airmen from across Team Vandenberg, whose contributions are vital to our nation’s security,” said Titus. “These test launches demonstrate the readiness of U.S. nuclear forces and provide confidence in the lethality and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear deterrent.”

Approximately 300 such tests had previously occurred, according to the Defense Department, and were not the result of any specific global event.

The planned routine test was canceled in April to reduce nuclear tensions with Russia during Ukraine’s ongoing conflict. A test scheduled earlier this month was likewise delayed to avoid escalating tensions between China and Taiwan.

Boeing’s Minuteman III is a critical component of the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal. The missile has a range of more than 6,000 miles and a top speed of 15,000 mph.

An arsenal of up to 400 Minuteman III missiles makes up the most responsive leg of America’s “nuclear triad,” which the Department of Defense describes as a compilation of platforms and weapons deployed by land, sea, and air, that serves as the backbone for national security.

Since 1959, America’s ICBM force has been on constant, round-the-clock alert, the U.S Department of Defense reported. In 2029, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program will begin replacing Minuteman III and modernizing the 450 ICBM launch facilities.

In February, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that his country’s nuclear forces should be on high alert, raising fears that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could lead to nuclear war. However, U.S. officials have stated that they see no reason to change Washington’s nuclear alert levels at this time, according to the city of San Diego.

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