GREAT FALLS — A team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) equipped with a test reentry vehicle on Thursday, February 9, 2023. from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
The U.S. Air Force said in a news release the 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 twenty-first century threats and reassure our allies. Such tests have occurred over 300 times before, and this test is not the result of current world events."
The ICBM's reentry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
These periodic test launches are designed to verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing data to military personnel to ensure a "continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent."
“This launch showcases the redundancy and reliability of our strategic deterrence systems while sending a visible message of assurance to allies,” said Colonel Christopher Cruise, 377th Test Evaluation Group commander.
Airmen from the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota were selected for the task force to support the test launch. The missile bases within Air Force Global Strike Command have crew members standing alert 24 hours a day, year-round, overseeing the nation’s ICBM forces, including the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana.
“This test launch is a culmination of months of preparation and collaboration across multiple Air Forces agencies,” said Major Martin Escarzaga, task force commander. “The Airmen who perform this mission of strategic deterrence are the best our nation has to offer. They work 365 days a year to maintain, support, operate, and secure this vital component of our nuclear triad.”
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.
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