Feb. 12 (UPI) — U.S. Air Force personnel from bases in Minot, N.D., and Vandenberg, Calif., completed a test launch with an unarmed Minuteman III missile.
The Minuteman is an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, capable of carrying nuclear warheads. U.S. Air Force officials say the operational launch was conducted to verify the missile’s capability as a nuclear deterrent.
Prior to the launch, the missile was taken from a silo at Minot AFB and reassembled at Vandenberg. The launch was conducted by airmen from the 91st Missile Wing.
The ICBM was fitted with a re-entry vehicle, and traveled approximately 2,200 miles to a test range near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
The Minuteman III is operated by the Air Force Global Strike Command as part of an effort to discourage the use of nuclear weapons against the United States. The Air Force says it has 450 Minuteman III missiles in its arsenal.
The Boeing-built weapon weighs over 79,000 pounds, has an effective range of 5,218 nautical miles, and reaches speeds of approximately 15,000 miles-per-hour.