On Wednesday, the United States Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) announced that it had successfully test-fired an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, equipped with atmospheric entry, from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. This represents the readiness, lethality and effectiveness of the US nuclear force, the AFGSC said in a press release.
On August 11, 2021, the US military successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile. (US Space Force photo by Michael Peterson)
This test-launched intercontinental ballistic missile was equipped with an “atmospheric penetration aircraft installed by the Hi Fidelity Test Council”. Before striking the waters near Kwajalein Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, some 4,200 miles (about 6,758 km), it detonated conventional (i.e. non-nuclear) explosives.
According to the press release, these tests verified the accuracy and reliability of the US intercontinental ballistic missile weapon system. It also provides valuable data to ensure the safe, reliable and effective continuation of nuclear deterrence.
An AFGSC unarmed #MinutemanIII #ICBM launched during an operational test this morning at @SLDelta30 (Vandenberg). ICBM test launches demonstrate that the #MMIII fleet is relevant, essential & key to leveraging dominance in an era of Strategic Competition.#GT239 #SafeSecureReady pic.twitter.com/TJPeIz4ea2
— AFGSC (@AFGlobalStrike) August 11, 2021
“America’s nuclear enterprise is the cornerstone of the security architecture of the free world,” said Omar Colbert, commander of the 576th Test Squadron. “Today’s test launch is just one example of how our National Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Fleet demonstrates the operational readiness and reliability of weapons systems. This also allows us to demonstrate the great capabilities of American pilots.”
This test launch is the culmination of months of preparation, involving many government partners. The Air Force personnel performing this important task are among the most well trained and educated in the Air Force.
Pilots from the US Air Force’s 341st Missile Squadron, 90th Missile Squadron, and 91st Missile Squadron were selected as the task force to support the launch. The bases of these three missile squadrons remain on alert 24 hours a day throughout the year and are responsible for monitoring US intercontinental ballistic missile activities.
Aaron Boudreau, Commander of Task Force Aaron Boudreau, stated that the United States does not intend to use these tests as a response to tensions in the region. The test launch schedule was developed 5 years ago, the related preparations were also made 6 months to 1 year before launch.
“Our task force consists of experts from all three Missile Squadrons. They have shown incredible initiative and flexibility to overcome unforeseen challenges during this global pandemic (COVID-19),” said Boudreau.
However, this test launch in the Pacific region comes at a time when the leadership of the US Air Force and the Department of Defense is increasingly emphasizing that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has caused a threats in the region.
Researchers at the James Martin Center for Nuclear Nonproliferation Research in California, USA, analyzed commercial satellite images. They found 119 construction sites near Yumen City, Gansu Province, whose characteristics are consistent with the CCP’s existing missile launch facilities.
According to Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear weapons expert and director of the East Asian Nuclear Proliferation Program at the Center for this Research, said the construction works show that the CCP is trying to convince people. about its nuclear deterrent. He described the scale of the project as “incredible.”
In response, U.S. Air Force leaders emphasized that the United States needed to modernize its nuclear missiles.
On August 10, Michael J. Lutton, the 20th commander of the US Air Force, said in a video event at the Mitchell Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics: “I believe modernization is an important part important in it, isn’t it? Modernization is an important part of countering nuclear proliferation.”