The second test this year of an unarmed Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base launched successfully early Wednesday morning.
The Minuteman 3 missile, equipped with a simulated warhead, blasted out of an underground silo on North Base at 3:07 a.m.
“Today, Team Vandenberg and our mission partners’ teamwork delivered another successful launch from America’s West Coast spaceport,” said Col. Brent McArthur, 30th Space Wing vice commander. “The men and women of Team V, Air Force Global Strike Command and other mission partners worked tirelessly to provide safe and accurate operations.”
Air Force Global Strike Command officials said the test’s purpose was “to validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system.”
The launch team, under the direction of Vandenberg’s 576th Flight Test Squadron, included crew members from the 341st Missile Wing, Malmstrom AFB, Mont., and the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron, Offutt AFB, Neb.
For this test, the crew aboard an Airborne Command Post E-6B aircraft used the Airborne Launch Control System to send the command to launch the weapon.
“Every successful test launch is the culmination of a tremendous amount of teamwork and preparation,” said Col. David Lair, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander. “The data we receive from these tests is vital in ensuring a safe, secure and effective ICBM force.”
Members of the 576th are responsible for installing tracking, telemetry and command destruct systems on the missile, which collect data and ensure safety requirements are met.
The Air Force has some 450 nuclear-tipped Minuteman 3 missiles in and around North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.
This was the second test of 2012 from the base in a year when officials once planned up to five. However, glitches involving equipment used for test launches led to several delays.
The remaining tests have been pushed into 2013, when Minuteman 3 launches are tentatively planned for April, May, September and October, Global Strike Command officials said.
This apparently was Vandenberg’s final launch of 2012. A Missile Defense Agency test of a new interceptor booster from the base likely has slipped into 2013, officials said. That test would collect data on the interceptor vehicle, but would not involve an attempt at an intercept.