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VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The Air Force launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile early Wednesday.
The 1:53 a.m. operation tested the system’s reliability and accuracy. The launch was a team effort by members of the 30th Space Wing and the 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg and the 91st Space Wing from Minot Air Force Base, N.D.
“The Western (missile test) Range and Vandenberg are national assets critical to verifying the capability of the deployed ICBM force that remains on-alert at bases in North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming,” Col. S. L. Davis, the 576 FLTS commander, said in a statement.
“The data we collect from each operational test launch allows the 576th FLTS to verify, validate, and ultimately improve that capability which in turn helps to maintain global stability.”
The missiles’ two unarmed warheads traveled about 4,200 miles in about 30 minutes, hitting targets at the Ronald Reagan Test Site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the western chain of the Marshall Islands.
Wednesday’s launch was the third this year of a Minuteman III, Davis said. The Air Force will conduct the fourth and final launch of 2005 next week, he said.
Vandenberg also is preparing to launch several space missions over the next couple of months, including the last Titan IV mission. The Titan IV is the largest unmanned space booster used by the Air Force, designed to carry payloads similar to those aboard the space shuttle.
“We’ve entered a very busy launch period at Vandenberg,” said Col. Jack Weinstein, the 30th Space Wing commander. “We’ve got several important, even historic, launches over the next few months.”