BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. – Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test re-entry vehicle from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California Aug. 11 at 12:53 a.m. Pacific Time to demonstrate the readiness of U.S. nuclear forces and provide confidence in the lethality and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear deterrent.
This launch involved a Hi Fidelity Joint Test Assembly re-entry vehicle that detonated conventional (i.e. non-nuclear) explosives prior to hitting the surface of the water approximately 4,200 miles downrange near Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. These test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.
“The U.S. nuclear enterprise is the cornerstone of the security structure of the free world,” said Col. Omar Colbert, 576th Flight Test Squadron Commander. “Today’s test launch is just one example of how our nation’s ICBM fleet demonstrates operational readiness and reliability of the weapon system. It also allows us to showcase the amazing level of competence and capability of our Airmen.”
The test launch is a culmination of months of preparation that involve multiple government partners. The Airmen who perform this vital mission are some of the most skillfully trained and educated the Air Force has to offer.
Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren AFB, and 91st Missile Wing at Minot, were selected for the task force to support the test launch. The three missile bases have crew members standing alert 24 hours a day, year-round, overseeing the nation’s ICBM alert forces.
“Test launches are not a response or reaction to world events or regional tensions,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Boudreau, Task Force commander. “The launch calendars are built five years in advance, and planning for each individual launch begins six months to a year prior to launch. Our task force is comprised of experts from all three missile wings and they have showcased incredible initiative and flexibility to overcome unforeseen challenges during this world-wide pandemic. We’re honored to conduct this mission in conjunction with the 576th Flight Test Squadron and extremely proud to represent the numerous men and women that support the nuclear deterrence mission.”
The ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and U.S. Strategic Command, uses data collected from test launches for continuing force development evaluation. The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational capability of the Minuteman III and ensures the United States’ 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.
Air Force Global Strike Command is a major command with headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, in the Shreveport-Bossier City community. The command overseas the nation’s three intercontinental ballistic missile wings, the Air Force’s entire bomber force, to include B-52, B-1 and B-2 wings, the Long Range Strike Bomber program, Air Force Nuclear Command, Control and Communications systems, and operational and maintenance support to organizations within the nuclear enterprise. Approximately 33,700 professionals are assigned to two Numbered Air Forces, nine wings, two geographically-separated squadrons and one detachment in the continental United States and deployed to locations around the globe.
Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, the Program of Record, will replace the Minuteman III ICBM 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.