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Vandenberg schedules Minuteman III launch

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile successfully launches at 1 a.m. Nov. 5 from North Vandenberg. The missile was configured with a National Nuclear Security Administration test assembly in which a single unarmed re-entry vehicle traveled approximately 4,190 miles to their pre-determined targets near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. (U.S. Air Force photo /Joe Davila)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile successfully launches at 1 a.m. Nov. 5 from North Vandenberg. The missile was configured with a National Nuclear Security Administration test assembly in which a single unarmed re-entry vehicle traveled approximately 4,190 miles to their pre-determined targets near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. (U.S. Air Force photo /Joe Davila)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile configured with a joint test assembly is scheduled to launch from North Vandenberg Sunday between 3:01 to 9:01 a.m. 

The launch is an operational test to determine the weapon system's reliability and accuracy. 

The missile's single unarmed re-entry vehicle is expected to travel approximately 4,190 miles, hitting a pre-determined target near the Kwajalein Atoll. 

The 576th Flight Test Squadron, which will direct the missile launch, installed tracking, telemetry and command destruct systems on the missile to collect data and meet safety requirements. Maintenance and operations task force personnel from the 341st Missile Wing, Malmstrom AFB, Mont., are conducting operational tasks supporting the launch. 

Col. Steven Winters, the 30th Space Wing vice commander, is the launch decision authority for this mission. Col. Carl T. DeKemper, the 576th FLTS commander, is the mission director. A crew from Malmstrom AFB will launch the missile under the direction of the 576th FLTS. 

This launch, the second of three in 2009, comes at a time of change within the missile world, as the Air Force moves closer to combining its nuclear missile and bomber assets into the newly created Global Strike Command. 

"Our team is dedicated to ensuring a credible, safe and combat-ready ICBM force that convinces potential adversaries of our unwavering commitment to defend our nation, its allies and friends," said Colonel Dekemper. "This dedication will continue as the ICBM mission transfers to Air Force Global Strike Command." 

The test also comes as the missile community commemorates 50 years of nuclear deterrence. For the past 50 years, Vandenberg has been a key U.S. Air Force installation used in the development and operational validation of the nation's intercontinental ballistic missile fleet. 

The entire ICBM community, including the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, will use the data collected from this mission for continuing force development evaluation.