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US conducts test flight of unarmed Minuteman 3 missile

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test on Oct. 2, 2019, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

J.T. ARMSTRONG/U.S. AIR FORCE

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: February 5, 2020

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — An unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from California early Wednesday on a test flight to a target in the Pacific Ocean, the Air Force Global Strike Command said.

The missile blasted off at 12:33 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base and its reentry vehicle traveled 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands as part of a developmental test, the command said from Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

Developmental tests use a spare missile from storage to validate flight worthiness of new or replacement components. That differs from test launches that use randomly selected operational missiles.

Modernization programs are essential to sustaining the aging Minuteman 3 weapon system, Col. Omar Colbert, the 576th Flight Test Squadron commander, said in a statement.

The launch was conducted by airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., and the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.

Vandenberg’s 30th Space Wing, now a part of the new U.S. Space Force, provided support.

The Air Force said test launches are not a reaction to world events. The launch calendars are developed three to five years in advance, and planning for individual launches takes six months to a year.

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