By Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas, Space Launch Delta 30 Public Affairs
2023 April 19
An operational test launch of an Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was conducted April 19 at 5:11 a.m. Pacific Time from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. The missile used in GT-246 launched in the early hours of the morning with a launch command delivered from the Air Launch Control System on a Navy E-6 TACAMO aircraft. (U.S. Space Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas)
VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. - A joint team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen and Navy aircrew launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with one test re-entry vehicle from aboard the Airborne Launch Control System April 19 at 5:11 a.m. Pacific Time from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.
This test launch is part of routine and periodic activities intended to demonstrate that the United States' nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, reliable and effective to deter twenty-first century threats and reassure our allies. Such tests have occurred over 300 times before, and this test is not the result of current world events.
"Strategic deterrence is the most critical mission in our Air Force and the cornerstone of America's defense," said Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, commander, Air Force Global Strike Command. "The foundation of our command and our ability to execute our mission is because of Striker Airmen, and I have full and unwavering confidence in their abilities.
"This test launch reinforces what our allies and partners already know - we're always ready to defend the United States with combat ready nuclear forces anytime, anywhere, on order, to conduct global strike."
Airmen from the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron out of Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, were aboard the U.S. Navy E-6 aircraft to demonstrate the reliability and effectiveness of the ALCS system.
The ICBM's reentry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. These test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.
"We have a unique ability to strike a target anywhere, at any time, should the commander-in-chief deem it vital to our national security and the security of our allies," said Col. Chris Cruise, 377th Test Evaluation Group commander. "An Airborne Launch Control System test validates that capability, ensures we have redundancy in our weapons systems, and showcases the interoperability with our Navy counterparts."
The test launch is a culmination of months of preparation that involve multiple government partners. The Airmen who perform this vital mission are some of the most skillfully trained and educated the Air Force has to offer.
Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, were selected for the task force to support the test launch. The missile bases within Air Fore Global Strike Command have crew members standing alert 24 hours a day, year-round, overseeing the nation's ICBM alert forces.
The ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and U.S. Strategic Command, uses data collected from test launches for continuing force development evaluation. The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational capability of the Minuteman III and ensures the United States' ability to maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent as a key element of U.S. national security and the security of U.S. allies and partners.
Air Force Global Strike Command is a major command with headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, in the Shreveport-Bossier City community. The command overseas the nation's three intercontinental ballistic missile wings, the Air Force's entire bomber force, to include B-52, B-1 and B-2 wings, the Long Range Strike Bomber program, Air Force Nuclear Command, Control and Communications systems, and operational and maintenance support to organizations within the nuclear enterprise. Approximately 33,700 professionals are assigned to two Numbered Air Forces, nine wings, two geographically-separated squadrons and one detachment in the continental United States and deployed to locations around the globe. More information can be found at: https://www.afgsc.af.mil/About/Fact-Sheets/Article/454593/air-force-global-strike-command-air-forces-strategic-air/.
The LG-35A Sentinel will replace the Minuteman III ICBM with an initial capability of 2029. Until full capability is achieved in the mid-2030s, the Air Force is committed to ensuring Minuteman III remains a viable deterrent.
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