Air Force global strike tests Minuteman III missile

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during a developmental test at 12:33 a.m. Pacific Time Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hanah Abercrombie)

BARKSDALE AFB, La. (KEVN) – A team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, and the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test reentry vehicle early Wednesday morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

This test was a Developmental Test Launch, which differs from routine Operational Test Launches. Rather than randomly selecting a fielded ICBM to verify fleet-wide reliability, a Developmental Test Launch uses a spare missile from storage to validate flight worthiness of new or replacement components in an as-near-to operational environment as possible. This Flight Test Unit is the second of four FTUs scheduled over the next several years to validate replacement components that will ensure continued Minuteman III viability.

The test launch is a culmination of months of preparation that involve multiple government partners. The Airmen who perform this vital mission are some of the most skillfully trained and educated the Air Force has to offer.

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.

The launch calendars are built three to five years in advance, and planning for each individual launch begins six months to a year prior to launch.



An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during a developmental test at 12:33 a.m. Pacific Time Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Wear)
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during a developmental test at 12:33 a.m. Pacific Time Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aubree Milks)
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during a developmental test at 12:33 a.m. Pacific Time Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hanah Abercrombie)
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during a developmental test at 12:33 a.m. Pacific Time Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hanah Abercrombie)