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Minuteman III test missile launches from Vandenberg

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test Dec. 17 at 4:36 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Col. Keith Balts, the 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales)

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched at 4:36 a.m. during an operational test Dec. 17, 2013, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The 30th Space Wing manages Department of Defense space and missile testing, and placing satellites into polar orbit from the West Coast, using expendable boosters. Col. Keith Balts, the 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales)

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test Dec. 17 at 4:36 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Col. Keith Balts, the 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales)

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched at 4:36 a.m. during an operational test Dec. 17, 2013, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The launch team, under the direction of the 576th Flight Test Squadron, Vandenberg AFB, included Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing, Malmstrom AFB, Mont., and the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron, Offutt AFB, Neb. Col. Keith Balts, the 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Peterson)

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test Dec. 17 at 4:36 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Col. Keith Balts, the 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales)

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched at 4:36 a.m. during an operational test Dec. 17, 2013, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. It was the 12th and final launch of 2013. Col. Keith Balts, the 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Peterson)

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test Dec. 17 at 4:36 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Col. Keith Balts, the 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales)

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched at 4:36 a.m. during an operational test Dec. 17, 2013, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The entire ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and U.S. Strategic Command will use the data collected from this mission for continuing force development evaluation. Col. Keith Balts, the 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Peterson)

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test Dec. 17 at 4:36 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Col. Keith Balts, the 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales)

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched at 4:36 a.m. during an operational test Dec. 17, 2013, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Minuteman III is a three-stage missile that can reach targets more than 6,000 miles away. As each stage burns out, it drops away and the next stage ignites. Col. Keith Balts, the 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales)

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) --

A team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen successfully launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile Dec. 17 at 4:36 a.m. PST from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Every test launch verifies the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent, said Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, 20th Air Force commander.

“Our Airmen maintain and operate this weapon system year round in some challenging environments, and today’s test is a result of their tireless devotion to this mission,” said Weinstein.

The launch team, under the direction of the 576th Flight Test Squadron, Vandenberg AFB, included Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing, Malmstrom AFB, Mont., and the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron, Offutt AFB, Neb.

“The test launch is one demonstration of the professionalism and pride all members of Team Malmstrom take in executing our mission,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Vance, 341st Missile Wing task force commander.

“Task Force members performed their maintenance and operations tasks with the highest level of dedication and precision, as they and all other 341st Missile Wing Airmen do daily in the missile field and on base to maximize the effectiveness of our ICBM forces,” Vance said.

Malmstrom AFB is one of three missile bases with crew members standing alert 24/7 year-round, overseeing the nation’s 450 ICBMs. 

“As a missileer, the test launch was an amazing experience,” said 2nd Lt. Jasmine Paul, deputy combat crew commander. Paul pulls an average of eight alerts per month, monitoring 50 missiles at Malmstrom.

“I pulled alert for this test launch and monitored it every step of the way, relaying information to the test conductor,” Paul said. “Being able to see the missile take off gives me a sense of pride and shows me that the work I put into this career every day is well worth it.”

The entire ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and U.S. Strategic Command will use the data collected from this mission for continuing force development evaluation.

The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational credibility of the Minuteman III and ensures the United States’ ability to maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent as a key element of U.S. national security and the security of U.S. allies and partners.

(Courtesy of Headquarters Air Force Global Strike Command Office of Public Affairs)

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