Mighty Ninety conducts successful SELM

  • Published
  • By Glenn S. Robertson
  • 90th Missile Wing

The 90th Missile Wing conducted a Simulated Electronic Launch-Minuteman test near Pine Bluffs, Sept.  20-21, 2021.

The Mighty Ninety contributes to the nation’s strategic defense by sustaining and operating approximately 150 Minuteman III ICBMs and the associated launch facilities. A SELM test validates the ICBM weapon system’s effectiveness in a safe and secure manner, according to Maj. Suong Lee, Test Manager Advisor throughout SELM, from the 576th Operations Test Squadron.

“SELM is the most comprehensive test of the weapons system that we do,” said Lee. “It tests all the equipment we have in the field to ensure that everything works correctly and will respond when it needs to.”  

The test required extensive coordination between multiple units across the wing and Air Force Global Strike Command

During a SELM, missileers in the launch control center send commands to the ICBMs in the launch facility. They work with test facilitators who provide the commands and ensure the orders are executed accurately. For those in the capsule, there is a sense of pride in being able to participate in a crucial exercise like SELM.

“It’s an honor being here and helping to ensure that all of our systems are reliable,” said 1st Lt. Marcel Alves, 321st Missile Squadron missile combat crew commander. “It’s an extremely important part of our job to ensure that these systems work and will launch when we need them to – ensuring we can provide that deterrence to the American people is something special.”  

Before the missileers executed the launch codes, however, maintenance teams worked to ensure the sites were prepared to conduct SELM. Most of the coordination and preparation to ensure a successful launch test is executed by the Maintenance Group, said Capt. Brian Nagel, 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron Operations Officer.

“It takes weeks leading up to test execution to ensure all sites are postured, equipment removed and test equipment installed correctly, taking the coordination of multiple shops and agencies to ensure everyone and everything is on time and on point,” said Nagel. “Maintenance is also involved with coordination to the sites through the Integrated Planning Cell, for Security Forces support, Operations Groups, Depot and the Program Office.” 

The preparation and execution of SELM requires an augmentation of security forces for the involved launch facilities. The 890th Missile Security Forces Squadron provided the security for the missile maintainer teams and sites involved with those activities, said Maj. Justin May, 890 MSFS commander.

“During SELM, my defenders provide security for the LF while MX is active on-site, all while still maintaining alert for security issues in the area,” May said. “Though SELM is largely a function of the missileers and maintainers, the exercise could not be conducted without the defenders in the missile field. Without us, if something goes wrong, it can lead to the whole operation being shut down – we enable the mission here, just like defenders have been doing all over the world since the Air Police first stood up.” 

The test demonstrates the missile wing’s immediate nuclear response capability serving the nation, reassuring allies and deterring adversaries.

“SELM is crucial in showing the American people and our allies, as well as our adversaries that our nation’s ICBM force is safe, secure, lethal and ready to go at a moment’s notice,” said Col. Deane Konowicz, 90th Missile Wing vice commander. “Through the simulated launch, we tell those allies and adversaries that our ICBM force will respond to commands and be ready to launch 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

As live-fire test of the ICBM is impossible, the execution of exercises like SELM and Glory Trip help Air Force Global Strike Command provide a demonstration of the weapon system’s capability.