The W78 warhead, used on the Minuteman III, had seven flight tests (of the eight planned) between 1992 and 1996. DOE and the national laboratory officials told us that a flight test with telemetry equipment was not conducted because the Department decided to use the available warhead test slot on the test missile for a nontelemetry DOE test of the W78. Flight tests involve the actual dropping or launching of a weapon from which the nuclear components have been removed. DOE uses specially designed equipment-referred to as telemetry packages-to test the integration and functioning of the weapon's electrical and mechanical subsystems.
To provide warhead diversity in the force, some Safety Enhanced Reentry Vehicle (SERV) modified Minuteman missiles would carry the W78 warhead. A number of W78 and W87 warheads will be retained as reliability replacements and surveillance assets to support the responsive force.
Air Force regulations prohibit air transport of nuclear weapons containing conventional high explosives (CHE), (i.e., B53, W62, W78) unless ground transport is not feasible. Air transport of CHE weapons requires approval by the Secretary of the Military Department or the Commander of the Unified or Specified Command or their designated representatives.
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