Vandenberg successfully launches Minuteman III

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile configured with a National Nuclear Security Administration test assembly launched from North Vandenberg today at 3:01 a.m.

The launch was an operational test to verify the weapon system's reliability and accuracy.

The missile carried three unarmed re-entry vehicles approximately 4,190 miles at speeds in excess of 24,000 mph to their pre-determined targets near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Col. David Buck, the 30th Space Wing commander, was the mission's launch decision authority. Lt. Col. Lesa K. Toler, the 576th Flight Test Squadron commander, was the mission director for this test launch.

"It's really something when you see a truly outstanding team come together," Colonel Buck said. "As a former Top Hander myself, I know that the Airmen of the 576th FLTS are the best of the best when it comes to force development evaluation, and, as the 30th Space Wing commander, I know that this is the best range team in the world. I couldn't think of a better team to demonstrate the awesome capability of our ICBM fleet."

Throughout the preparation and execution of the mission, maintenance and operations task force personnel from the 91st Missile Wing out of Minot AFB, N.D., integrated with the 576th FLTS to perform operational tasks. Members of the 576th FLTS installed tracking, telemetry and command destruct systems on the missile to collect data and meet 30th Space Wing safety requirements.

"These are dangerous times we're living in right now," said Colonel Toler. "It's extremely important our combatant commander has the capabilities he needs to perform the mission of fighting and winning our nation's wars. Testing an operational asset pulled from the missile field at Minot provides us confidence our weapon system is capable of performing when needed."

The data collected will be used by the entire ICBM community, including the United States Strategic Command planners and Department of Energy laboratories.