VAFB Launch

An unarmed Minuteman III missile flies over the coast early Thursday after launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base as part of a test of the U.S. nuclear weapons system.

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Thursday as part of an operational test, according to launch decision authority Ron Cortopassi, executive director of the 30th Space Wing. 

The test launch program is an operational test of an Air Force Global Strike Command ICBM, which is a part of the United States' nuclear weapons system, and helps the command evaluate the Minuteman III and gather data to keep the system effective. 

“The ICBM test launch program demonstrates our nation’s nuclear deterrence forces are safe, secure, effective and ready to defend the United States, and Vandenberg plays an integral part in providing the capabilities necessary to meet those test objectives,” Cortopassi said. “Even in times of global pandemic, our airmen are able to provide the range support required to safely test an ICBM launch.”

The Air Force adheres to strict protocols while performing operational test launches, only launching when all safety parameters with the range and missile are met and in accordance with international laws and norms.

Lisa André covers local news and lifestyles for Santa Ynez Valley News. 

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