The United States Air Force destroyed an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile off California’s coast Wednesday due to an “anomaly” that occurred during a test launch of the missile.
According to Air Force Global Strike Command, Space Launch Delta 30 was able to safely destroy the unarmed missile that was launched over the Pacific Ocean at 12:06 a.m. on Wednesday from Vandenberg Space Force Base, which is located in California.
“An anomaly is any unexpected event during the test,” Air Force Global Strike Command explained in a statement. Since anomalies may arise from many factors relating to the operational platform itself, or the test equipment, careful analysis is needed to identify the cause.”
While the Air Force did not provide the reason for Wednesday’s “anomaly” during the testing of the intercontinental ballistic missile, the Air Force noted that a Launch Analysis Group will work to investigate the cause.
The Air Force’s investigation team will include individuals from Air Force Global Strike Command, the 576th Flight Test Squadron, the 377th Test and Evaluation Group, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, and the Space Launch Delta 30 Safety Office.
“The test launch program helps the command evaluate the Minuteman III and gather data to keep the system effective. The command learns lessons from every test launch,” the Air Force stated. “Gathering data from the launch allows AFGSC to identify and correct any issues with the weapon system to ensure the Minuteman III’s continued reliability and accuracy.”
According to Stars and Stripes, the Minuteman III is currently the only U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile to be launched by land. First introduced in 1970, Stars and Stripes reported that the missile is capable of carrying different thermonuclear warheads.
Prior to Wednesday’s anomaly, the last test launch of the Minuteman III missile took place on Sept. 6. According to Stars and Stripes, Vandenberg Space Force Base is regularly used to test the intercontinental missiles in order to ensure the missile’s effectiveness, accuracy, and readiness.
“The Minuteman III has been and will continue to be integral to our nation’s defense,” Air Force Gen. Charles Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, previously stated. “Investing in nuclear modernization is as relevant as ever and we are committed to transitioning to the Sentinel, which will ensure our nation is ready to provide strategic deterrence for tomorrow.”
According to Stars and Stripes, the Sentinel missile highlighted by Brown is currently being developed by Northrop Grumman and will feature a newer warhead. However, the Air Force has indicated that the Sentinel project could be delayed due to a shortage of materials needed for the missile, as well as a shortage of engineers for the project.