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Air Force Tests Unarmed Minuteman 3 Missile From Vandenberg AFB In California

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A team of Air Force Airmen led by 30th Space Wing commander, Col. J. Christopher Moss, the launch decision authority, launched a Minuteman III Missile as part of an operational test on Oct. 21 at 5:45 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time. The LGM-30G Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) was unarmed and was only equipped with a test reentry vehicle.

The equipped reentry vehicle contained a telemetry package that is used for operational testing purposes and was headed to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The ICBM has the capacity to reach the speed of 24,000 kph, or approximately at Mach 23, traveled 2,400 miles or about 3,682.43 km to reach its destination.

The launch team, based in Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, was a combined team composed of airmen from the Air Force Global Strike Command's 576th Flight Test Squadron and Col. Moss's own team from the 30th Space Wing, as well as maintainers and crew members from the 90th Missile Wing.

"This launch, like every operational test launch from Vandenberg, is a vital part of demonstrating the readiness of our nation's nuclear capabilities," Col. Moss said.

First Lt. Daniel Uresti Jr., 320th Missile Squadron combat crew commander, commended the launch team and said that his participation during the launch was a rewarding experience. 

"[It] helps us to understand just how difficult their jobs really are... especially when the weather is bad. These guys still get the mission done," First Lt. Uresti Jr. said.

Senior Airman Joshua Isom, 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron electro-mechanical team chief, was also part of the team. "The ICBM mission isn't glamorous. The elements can be harsh and capsule life can be rigorous but we know the importance of what we do," Isom said.

The LGM-30G is part of the country's national strategic deterrent forces and "LGM" is a Department of Defense designation. 'L' stands for "silo-launched," 'G' means "surface attack," and 'M' signifies "guided missile" and control of LGM-30G's fall under the Air Force Global Strike Command.

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