An intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base early yesterday morning in a test of the weapon system’s accuracy and reliability.
The Minuteman III missile took 30 minutes to travel the 4,200 miles from Vandenberg AFB in northern Santa Barbara County to its final destination near the U.S. Marshall Islands. According to Lt. Colonel Lesa Toler, the mission director for yesterday’s test, such launches are essential in testing every asset of an ICBM launch.
“Minuteman III flight testing is critical because it’s the only way to obtain data on weapon system reliability, accuracy and performance from first-stage ignition to [re-entry vehicle] impact,” Toler said in a public affairs statement from the base.
The launch also served as a certification for a new component of the missile’s launch termination system.
“In order to comply with 30th Space Wing safety requirements, a component of the flight termination system on the missile had to be redesigned and certified,” Toler said. “Safety is our number one concern when conducting test launches.”
According to the Federation of American Scientists, ICBMs are strategic missiles capable of carrying large payloads of conventional or nuclear warheads thousands of miles. The missiles have been in use since the 1960s.
The data collected from the test launch will be sent to other bases and institutions for study, including the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is co-managed by the University of California.