U.S. Air Force Test Fires Missile From California Base

The Air Force successfully launched an unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile Monday from the California coast to an area in the Pacific Ocean some 4,200 miles away.

The ICBM was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Barbara at 3:01 a.m. and carried three unarmed re-entry vehicles to their targets near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, said Lt. Raymond Geoffroy.

The missile, configured with a National Nuclear Security Administration Test Assembly, was launched under the direction of the 576th Flight Test Squadron, whose members installed tracking and command destruct systems on it to collect data and meet safety requirements.

"It's really something when you see a truly outstanding team come together," Col. David Buck, 30th Space Wing commander, said in a written statement. "I couldn't think of a better team to demonstrate the awesome capability of our ICBM fleet."

On clear mornings the missiles in such tests can be seen as far away as Los Angeles 140 miles away, but a foggy coast Monday made the missile difficult to see even in the immediate area, Geoffroy said.

The Air Force says the launch was an operational test to check the weapon system's reliability and accuracy, and the data will be used by United States Strategic Command planners and Department of Energy laboratories.

"These are dangerous times we're living in right now," Lt. Col. Lesa K. Toler, commander of the 576th, said in a statement. "It's extremely important our combatant commander has the capabilities he needs to perform the mission of fighting and winning our nation's wars."