ICBM test launch aborted

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., experienced a ground abort prior to launch on May 5.

The Air Force conducts missile launch tests several times annually and this was the first unsuccessful launch since 2018. The Air Force conducted a successful test launch in February.

“The cause of the ground abort is currently under investigation, and Air Force Global Strike Command is assessing the potential to reschedule the launch,” according to a release. “The Air Force adheres to strict protocols while performing operational test launches, only launching when all safety parameters with the test range and missile are met.”

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The missile was pulled from the Minot Air Force Base missile complex, but launch related crews were from all three of the missile wings, including Malmstrom, according to AFGSC.

“The missile did exactly what it was designed to do,” AFGSC told Air Force Magazine in a statement. “During terminal countdown, the missile computer detected a fault in the sequence of checks it does prior to launching. Upon detection of this fault, it shut itself down.”

Anomaly causes termination of Malmstrom ICBM during test launch

The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational capability of the Minuteman III and ensures the nation’s 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, according to AFGSC.

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. Test launches are not a response or reaction to world events or regional tensions.

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The Air Force’s effort to replace the Minuteman with the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent system is currently underway and is working on the draft environmental assessment for the testing program.

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In September, the Air Force awarded a $13.3 billion contract to Northrop Grumman for the engineering and manufacturing development of GBSD.

GBSD missile program progressing

The project includes modernizing and replacing all launch facilities, communication systems, infrastructure, and technologies as necessary to support the GBSD system, according to the Air Force’s notice.

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Malmstrom is set to be the second missile base to get the new system, according to the Secretary of the Air Force. F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming is scheduled as the first base and Minot in North Dakota is scheduled third.

Additional maintenance, training, storage, testing, support, decommissioning, and disposal actions would occur at Hill AFB and the Utah Test and Training Range in Utah; Camp Guernsey in Wyoming; and Camp Navajo in Arizona.