On May 14, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., the 30th Space Wing of the U.S. Air Force test launched “[a]n unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.” In addition to ensuring that the Air Force remains operationally capable with ICBMs, the test shows the public what the launch of this missile (capable of carrying nuclear warheads) looks like.
The 30th Space Wing conducted the unarmed test launch “at 1:23 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time” on Monday according to DVIDS. And while the test is nothing out of the ordinary, there’s still an eerie aura around the video because of the destructive potential of the Minuteman.
The official Air Force page for the LGM-30G Minuteman III describes it as “an element of the nation’s strategic deterrent forces under the control of the Air Force Global Strike Command” and notes that “[m]issiles are dispersed in hardened silos to protect against attack and connected to an underground launch control center through a system of hardened cables.”
If that isn’t enough to give you a Cold War vibe, the page goes on to state that “[t]he Minuteman weapon system was conceived in the late 1950s and Minuteman I was deployed in the early 1960s.”
Interestingly enough, this official Air Force page never mentions the word “nuclear.” But the missile is indeed capable of carrying such weapons. A page about it at the official site of Hill Air Force Base says that it can carry “three Multiple Independently-targeted Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs), each with its own nuclear warhead, to allow one Minuteman missile to attack three independent targets with extreme accuracy.”
The Air Force publishing the test launch video isn’t surprising. The branch isn’t shy when it comes to its stewardship of America’s strategic assets.
So even as we don’t wish to see such weapons used for real, the May 14 Minuteman III test provides a fascinating look at what the launch of a land-based intercontinental ballistic missile looks like.
Note: The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.