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Air Force: Minuteman III missile test terminated after computer detected fault

Airmen from the 576th Flight Test Squadron missile handling team install a cable raceway on an intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 3, 2014. A test launch of an unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile was aborted before liftoff from Vandenberg early Wednesday, May 5, 2021.

JONATHAN SNYDER/U.S. AIR FORCE

By DAVE MINSKY | The Santa Maria Times | Published: May 7, 2021

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — The test launch of an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base was terminated Wednesday because of a fault detected by the system's computer during countdown, military officials said Thursday.

Just prior to the launch of the Minuteman III ICBM, the computer detected the fault in the sequence of checks and automatically shut itself down, according to Lt. Col. William Russell, deputy director of public affairs for the Air Global Strike Command.

The test, which helps the Air Force evaluate the effectiveness of the Minuteman III, was scheduled for a launch between 12:15 and 6:15 a.m. from north Vandenberg AFB. The launch won't be rescheduled, according to Russell.

"There has not been an incident like this in recent memory," Russell said. "However, the missile did exactly what it was designed to do."

A launch analysis group has been deployed to investigate what led to the termination. Results of the investigation, however, will be classified for operational security reasons because it involves an ICBM, according to Russell.

Test launches of ICBMs are conducted at Vandenberg Air Force Base by the Global Strike Command, located at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, and assisted by the 576th Flight Test Squadron, which is located at Vandenberg.

The Air Force has at least 400 Minuteman III missiles that are the land-based component of the U.S. military's nuclear triad, which also includes at least 300 submarine-launched Trident missiles and missiles carried by 46 B-52 and 20 B-2 bombers, according to the Department of Defense.

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