An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Wednesday morning as part of an operational test that once again drew the ire of anti-nuclear activists.
The missile, along with a test re-entry vehicle, was fired from the base at 1:13 a.m. The ICBM’s re-entry vehicle traveled about 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, according to Air Force public affairs, which noted that tests like Wednesday’s “verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.”
The Minuteman III program is part of the U.S.’s nuclear weapons system.
Col. Anthony Mastalir, the commander of the 30th Space Wing at VAFB, was the launch decision authority.
“Here at the 30th Space Wing, we are committed to providing robust range support, which contributes to mission assurance for our partner, Air Force Global Strike Command,” Mastalir said. “The Western Range is a critical part of the ICBM test and evaluation program, which lends to the credibility of our nation’s strategic deterrent. Our airmen can be very proud of their contributions to the security of our country.”
Along with the 30th Space Wing, the test was carried out by a team of airmen from Air Force Global Strike Command and from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.
“The flight test program demonstrates one part of the operational capability of the ICBM weapon system,” said Col. Omar Colbert, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander. “The Minuteman III is nearly 50 years old, and continued test launches are essential in ensuring its reliability until the mid-2030s when the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent is fully in place. Most importantly, this visible message of national security serves to assure our partners and dissuade potential aggressors.”
The test launches are not a response or reaction to world events or regional tensions, according to the Air Force.
The ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and U.S. Strategic Command uses data collected from the test launches for continuing force development evaluation, Air Force public affairs reported.
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, an anti-nuclear weapons organization based out of Santa Barbara, took issue with the test falling on the birthday of Mahatma Ghandi, a famed nonviolent peace activist.
In a statement sent Tuesday, Foundation President David Krieger also raised concerns about the Air Force’s claims that the tests are unrelated to global events. Krieger said he felt like the very act of testing has worldwide ramifications.
“Missile tests such as this one have the effect of normalizing the prospect of nuclear annihilation,” Krieger said. “Citizens need to look more deeply at the threat nuclear weapons pose to the planet and all its inhabitants. Each of these missile tests provides evidence of the extent to which our political and military leaders are failing us by making missile testing routine rather than engaging in the necessary effort to abolish nuclear weapons. Future generations will not look kindly on this normalization of the means for universal death.”
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