The United States fires an unarmed ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base


An Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launches during an operational test at 1:13 A.M. PDT on Sept. 7, 2022, at Vandenberg Space Force Base. (Image credit: U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas)

On Wednesday, the United States Air Force performed an early-morning suborbital test of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM (Sept. 7). At 1:13 a.m. PT, the Air Force Global Strike Command launched the ICBM from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California (4:13 a.m. ET; 0913 GMT). According to the Space Force, the test was carried out to "validate and verify the weapon system's safety, security, effectiveness, and readiness."


According to a Space Force film published after the launch, the Minuteman III ICBM carried three unidentified test reentry vehicles. A reentry vehicle is an ICBM payload that reenters the atmosphere after a launch, often a nuclear warhead, though hypersonic glide vehicles will undoubtedly become popular reentry vehicles as they mature. The missile went 4,200 miles (6,759 kilometers) at hypersonic speeds of 15,000 miles per hour (24,140 kilometers per hour), or nearly 4 miles (6.4 kilometers per second).


According to a Space Force film published after the launch, the Minuteman III ICBM carried three unidentified test reentry vehicles. A reentry vehicle is an ICBM payload that reenters the atmosphere after a launch, often a nuclear warhead, though hypersonic glide vehicles will undoubtedly become popular reentry vehicles as they mature. The missile went 4,200 miles (6,759 kilometers) at hypersonic speeds of 15,000 miles per hour (24,140 kilometers per hour), or nearly 4 miles (6.4 kilometers per second). According to Col. Bryan Titus, vice commander of Space Launch Delta 30, these launches "demonstrate the readiness of U.S. nuclear forces and provide confidence in the lethality and effectiveness of the nation's nuclear deterrent."


Space Launch Delta 30 is in charge of all launches from the west coast of the United States, including those that deploy satellites into polar orbits.


According to Titus, the Airmen and Guardians who carry out this critical duty are among the best-trained and most devoted members of America's Air and Space Force.


Marco Langbroek, a satellite tracker based in the Netherlands, shared images on Twitter(opens in new tab) of the navigational warnings issued prior to the launch, which depicts the ICBM's path from Vandenberg to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Marshall Islands' Kwajalein Atoll. The Minuteman III, or LGM-30G, was originally deployed in 1970 and is set to be phased down by 2030, to be replaced by the future LGM-35A Sentinel ICBM.

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