US conducts test launch of Minuteman III ICBM missile equipped with reentry vehicle
A team of U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test reentry vehicle at 11:01 P.M. Pacific Time Feb. 9 from Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. This test launch is part of routine and periodic activities intended to demonstrate that the United States' nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, reliable and effective to deter twenty-first-century threats and reassure allies.
A reentry vehicle is a spacecraft or missile component designed to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere after being launched into space. Reentry vehicles are typically used for delivering payloads, such as satellites or warheads, from space to Earth.
During reentry, the vehicle must withstand the high temperatures and pressures generated by atmospheric friction and compression. Most reentry vehicles are designed with a heat shield, which is typically made of materials that can withstand high temperatures, such as ceramics or ablative materials. The heat shield protects the payload and the vehicle from the extreme temperatures generated during reentry.
Reentry vehicles can have a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on their intended purpose. For example, ballistic missiles may have a conical shape, while space capsules for human passengers may have a more rounded shape.
Reentry vehicles have been used for a variety of purposes, including scientific research, communication, navigation, and military applications. They are an important technology for space exploration and for the delivery of payloads to and from space.
This test launch is part of routine and periodic activities intended to demonstrate that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, reliable and effective to deter twenty-first-century threats and reassure our allies. Such tests have occurred over 300 times before, and this test is not the result of current world events.
“A test launch displays the heart of our deterrence mission on the world’s stage, assuring our nation and its allies that our weapons are capable and our Airmen are ready and willing to defend peace across the globe at a moment's notice,” said Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, Air Force Global Strike Command commander.
The ICBM's reentry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. These test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent.
“This launch showcases the redundancy and reliability of our strategic deterrence systems while sending a visible message of assurance to allies,” said Col. Christopher Cruise, 377th Test and Evaluation Group commander.
“This multilateral team reflects the precision and professionalism of our command and our joint partners.”
U.S. Airmen from the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, were selected for the task force to support the test launch. The missile bases within U.S. Air Fore Global Strike Command have crew members standing alert 24 hours a day, year-round, overseeing the nation’s ICBM alert forces.
“This test launch is a culmination of months of preparation and collaboration across multiple Air Forces agencies,” said Maj. Martin Escarzaga, task force commander. “The Airmen who perform this mission of strategic deterrence are the best our nation has to offer. They work 365 days a year to maintain, support, operate, and secure this vital component of our nuclear triad.”
The ICBM (InterContinental Ballistic Missile) community, including the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, and U.S. Strategic Command, uses data collected from test launches for continuing force development evaluation. The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational capability 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.