An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsArticle Display

Missile successfully launches from Vandenberg

A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile successfully launches at 1:01 a.m. Aug. 13 from North Vandenberg AFB.  The missile was configured with a National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, test assembly in which three unarmed re-entry vehicles traveled approximately 4,220 miles to their pre-determined targets near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  The launch was a throw-back to years past in which a maintenance task force from an operational missile wing, in this case the 341st Missile Wing from Malmstrom AFB, Mont., performed jobs unique to test operations while validating the work they perform at the northern tier bases.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Joe Davila)

A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile successfully launches at 1:01 a.m. Aug. 13 from North Vandenberg AFB. The missile was configured with a National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, test assembly in which three unarmed re-entry vehicles traveled approximately 4,220 miles to their pre-determined targets near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The launch was a throw-back to years past in which a maintenance task force from an operational missile wing, in this case the 341st Missile Wing from Malmstrom AFB, Mont., performed jobs unique to test operations while validating the work they perform at the northern tier bases. (U.S. Air Force photo/Joe Davila)

A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile successfully launches at 1:01 a.m. Aug. 13 from North Vandenberg AFB.  The missile was configured with a National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, test assembly in which three unarmed re-entry vehicles traveled approximately 4,220 miles to their pre-determined targets near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  The launch was a throw-back to years past in which a maintenance task force from an operational missile wing, in this case the 341st Missile Wing from Malmstrom AFB, Mont., performed jobs unique to test operations while validating the work they perform at the northern tier bases.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Joe Davila)

A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile successfully launches at 1:01 a.m. Aug. 13 from North Vandenberg AFB. The missile was configured with a National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, test assembly in which three unarmed re-entry vehicles traveled approximately 4,220 miles to their pre-determined targets near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The launch was a throw-back to years past in which a maintenance task force from an operational missile wing, in this case the 341st Missile Wing from Malmstrom AFB, Mont., performed jobs unique to test operations while validating the work they perform at the northern tier bases. (U.S. Air Force photo/Joe Davila)

A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile successfully launches at 1:01 a.m. Aug. 13 from North Vandenberg AFB.  The missile was configured with a National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, test assembly in which three unarmed re-entry vehicles traveled approximately 4,220 miles to their pre-determined targets near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  The launch was a throw-back to years past in which a maintenance task force from an operational missile wing, in this case the 341st Missile Wing from Malmstrom AFB, Mont., performed jobs unique to test operations while validating the work they perform at the northern tier bases.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Joe Davila)

A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile successfully launches at 1:01 a.m. Aug. 13 from North Vandenberg AFB. The missile was configured with a National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, test assembly in which three unarmed re-entry vehicles traveled approximately 4,220 miles to their pre-determined targets near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The launch was a throw-back to years past in which a maintenance task force from an operational missile wing, in this case the 341st Missile Wing from Malmstrom AFB, Mont., performed jobs unique to test operations while validating the work they perform at the northern tier bases. (U.S. Air Force photo/Joe Davila)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile configured with a National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, test assembly was launched from North Vandenberg today at 1:01 a.m.

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

The missile's three unarmed re-entry vehicles traveled approximately 4,220 nautical miles to pre-determined targets near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

"The unique part of this mission was the incorporation of a maintenance task force from an operational missile wing," said Capt. Steve Bonin, launch director for the mission.

Operational tasks were conducted by maintenance and operations task force personnel from the 341st Missile Wing, Malmstrom AFB, Mont.

In the past, maintenance teams from missile wings supported the missile testing mission here; however, the program was discontinued several years ago. This mission marks a return to this model in which the maintenance task force has the opportunity to perform jobs unique to test operations while validating the work they perform at the northern tier bases.

"For me, the unique part of this launch was seeing all the moving pieces coming together," Captain Bonin said. "We had maintenance and operations teams from up north working together with us in the squadron; the coordination we did with the 30th SW who manages the range; as well as the Army and the Navy who supported the mission downrange."

Members of the 576th Flight Test Squadron installed tracking, telemetry and command destruct systems on the missile to collect data and meet safety requirements.

"I'm very proud of the team of professionals involved in making this test a success." said Lt. Col. Lesa Toler, 576th FLTS commander. "Their technical expertise, dedication and adherence to 'perfection as the standard' have ensured our nation's ICBM fleet is capable and extremely accurate."

The data collected will be used by the entire ICBM community, including the United States Strategic Command planners and the NNSA/Department of Energy laboratories. 

Since its founding in 1958, Vandenberg has shouldered the responsibility of testing and improving the nation's ICBM fleet. In the past, Team V has proven the Thor, Atlas, Titan, Peacekeeper, Minuteman I and Minuteman II weapon systems. In doing so, Vandenberg's Airmen helped maintain strategic stability for the past 50 years.

Today the 576th FLTS and 30th SW carry on this heritage through the testing and systematic improvement of the Minuteman III weapon system.

"For the past 50 years Vandenberg has been at the forefront of testing and improving American ballistic missiles," said Col. David Buck, 30th Space Wing commander. "Thanks to the hard work of Team Vandenberg, we continue a proud legacy of assuring the readiness and reliability of our ICBM fleet."

Despite 50 years of consistent testing and progress, the critical mission of demonstrating and advancing a key Air Force deterrent remains a unique and challenging venture for today's Airmen.

"I've supported five test launches and with each one I learn more and more about the Minuteman III," Captain Bonin said. "It never gets old."