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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Missile successfully launches from Vandenberg

by 2nd Lt. Raymond Geoffroy
30th Space Wing Public Affairs

8/13/2008 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile configured with a National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, test assembly was launched from North Vandenberg at 1:01 a.m. Aug. 13.

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 in the Pacific Ocean.

"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 Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing, Malmstrom Air Force Base, 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 their home base.

"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 Space Wing 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 U.S. Strategic Command planners and NNSA and Department of Energy laboratories.

Since its founding in 1958, Vandenberg Airmen have shouldered the responsibility of testing and improving the nation's ICBM fleet. In the past, teams here have 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 SW 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. "There's always something new."

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