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Vandenberg Launches Minuteman III

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches from here Aug. 26. The launch demonstrates the ability to integrate a safety enhanced re-entry vehicle into the existing Minuteman III weapons system. U.S. Air Force photo by Stephen DeLoriea.

Vandenberg CA AFB (AFPN) Sep 01, 2005
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launched from here Aug. 26 as part of a developmental test demonstrating the ability to integrate a safety enhanced re-entry vehicle into the existing Minuteman III weapons system.

The missile launched under the guidance of the 576th Flight Test Squadron and Capt. Justine Adams, 576th FLTS launch director.

"Each missile launch is the culmination of a tremendous amount of work, preparing and executing a safe and reliable test flight," said Lt. Col. S.L. Davis, 576th FLTS commander and mission director. "The data we receive from these tests is vital in ensuring a safe, secure and reliable ICBM force."

People from the squadron performed maintenance activities to include missile emplacement and installation of unique missile tracking, telemetry and command destruct systems to collect test data and meet safety requirements.

In addition, missile crewmembers deployed from the 564th Missile Squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., and augmented squadron Airmen here to conduct missile crew duties, including issuing the final launch command.

"They pull alerts and train to launch missiles (at Malmstrom) hoping they will never have to," said Capt. Scott Head, 576th FLTS ICBM test operations officer. "The opportunity to come to Vandenberg and 'turn keys' is a privilege and honor that only a handful of missileers get to experience."

The missile's single unarmed re-entry vehicle traveled about 4,200 miles in about 30 minutes, hitting a predetermined target at the Ronald Reagan Test Site near the Kwajalein Atoll in the western chain of the Marshall Islands.

"It was a great experience and a lot of work," said 1st Lt. Aaron Basham, 564th MS missile combat crew commander.

This exercise continues a long tradition of ICBM test launches from here. Two more Minuteman III launches are scheduled for Sept. 7 and Sept. 14, officials said.

"We are here ... to perform launch operations. That is our primary mission, and it is critical to our national defense. Nobody does it better," said Col. Jack Weinstein, 30th Space Wing commander and spacelift commander for the launch. "Each launch is a tribute to the outstanding effort of all our men and women."

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