Air Force conducts ICBM test launch with Malmstrom crew
Early on April 19, a joint team, including airmen from Malmstrom Air Force Base, launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with one test re-entry vehicle from aboard the Airborne Launch Control System.
The team conducted the test at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and launched the missile at 5:11 a.m. Pacific Time.
The test launch is part of the Department of Defense’s regular missile test launch program “intended to demonstrate that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, reliable and effective to deter 21st 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,” according to an Air Force Global Strike Command release.
Airmen from the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron out of Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., were aboard the U.S. Navy E-6.
Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom were selected for the task force to support the test launch. The missile used in the test launch was pulled from the Malmstrom missile field, according to the Air Force.
Typically, airmen pull a missile from their missile field, transport it to Vandenberg and place it in the test launch silo for the tests.
The ICBM’s reentry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. These test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent, according to AFGSC.
“We have a unique ability to strike a target anywhere, at any time, should the commander-in-chief deem it vital to our national security and the security of our allies,” said Col. Chris Cruise, 377th Test Evaluation Group commander. “An Airborne Launch Control System test validates that capability, ensures we have redundancy in our weapons systems, and showcases the interoperability with our Navy counterparts.”
The test launches require months of preparation and involve multiple government agencies. The tests rotate, using crews and missiles from around the three U.S. missile bases, which are Malmstrom, F.E. Warren in Wyoming and Minot in North Dakota.
Agencies involved in ICBMs use the data collected from test launches for continuing force development evaluation.
The Air Force is currently developing the Sentinel missile system to replace the Minuteman III ICBM system, with an initial capability of 2029.
“Until full capability is achieved in the mid-2030s, the Air Force is committed to ensuring Minuteman III remains a viable deterrent,” according to AFGSC.