US Air Force Test Nuclear-Capable Long-Range Missile

Courtesy of Andrew W. Sieber (Flickr CC0)

The United States Air Force tested an unarmed nuclear-capable long-range — Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic — missile on August 16, according to the Air Force Global Command. The missile was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It traveled 4,200 miles to the test range close to Marshall Island. It was equipped with a test reentry vehicle.

The Minuteman missile has been the mainstay of the land-based nuclear arsenal of the U.S. since the 1960s. Between 1966 and 1973 the Minuteman II replaced the original. Experts were able to improve the propulsion which gave the missile a longer range of about 8,000 miles.

The weapon’s reentry vehicle carried a 1.2-megaton thermonuclear warhead. It also had electronic jammers installed and mechanisms created to penetrate radar-directed antiballistic missile defenses around cities and military sites in the Soviet Union.

Courtesy of Kelly Michals (Flickr CC0)

The Minuteman III was deployed sometime between 1970 and 1975. It was designed to carry two or two or three independently targeted reentry vehicles (or MIRVs). Each reentry vehicle was equipped with a 170-kiloton thermonuclear warhead.

In the 1980s, some of the Minuteman IIIs had three 335-kiloton warheads installed, in addition to a more accurate guidance system that gave them the potential to destroy reinforced ICBM silos and command bunkers in the Soviet Union.

The Air Force released a statement saying they launched the missile at 12:49 a.m. (PT) “to demonstrate the readiness of U.S. nuclear forces and provide confidence in the lethality and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear deterrent.”

Steven Wilson, a spokesman for AF Global Strike Command, stated that the launch was originally supposed to happen on August 4. However, they delayed it due to concerns about China’s response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

This type of testing occurs roughly 300 times a year, according to the statement released by the AF Global Strike Command. It is part of their “routine and periodic activities intended to demonstrate that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, reliable and effective to deter twenty-first century threats and reassure our allies.”

The scheduled test launch had nothing to do with the current world events. However, Col. Chris Cruise, 576th Flight Test Squadron Commander, stated that the United States’ “nuclear triad is the cornerstone of the national security of our country and of our allies around the globe.” They may have only been running a test launch but it demonstrates that “our nation’s ICBM fleet illustrates our readiness and reliability of the weapon system.”

Traditionally, the is known as the only land-based leg of the United States nuclear triad. The other two legs of the nuclear triad are the nuclear weapons carried by long-range strategic bombers and the Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Cruise pointed out that there were many “missile crews” and “strategic weapons maintenance personnel” who perpetuate an “unwavering vigilance to defend the homeland.”

Written by Sheena Robertson


Britannica: Minuteman missile
CNN: US Air Force tests nuclear-capable long-range missile
Military: Air Force Tests Long-Range, Nuclear-Capable Missile Amid Global Tensions

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Andrew W. Sieber’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Kelly Michals Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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