Minuteman III Missile Test Terminated Mid-Flight in California

August 1, 2018 Last Updated: August 1, 2018

An unarmed U.S. Air Force Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test-launch was aborted after an anomaly was discovered, the military stated.

The Air Force Global Strike Command confirmed the missile flight was safely terminated over the Pacific Ocean at 4:42 a.m. on July 31, according to the Santa Maria Times.

The Associated Press reported that the ICBM test was intentionally destroyed mid-flight.

The U.S. military frequently tests the Minuteman reliability and accuracy with regularly scheduled launches over the Pacific Ocean. They launch from Vandenberg Air Force base in Southern California and fly 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll of the Marshall Islands.

The Air Force said that an anomaly is any unexpected event that takes place during a missile test.

“Since anomalies may arise from many factors relating to the operational platform itself, or the test equipment, careful analysis is needed to identify the cause,” Air Force Global Strike Command said in a statement to the Santa Maria Times. “A Launch Analysis Group is forming to investigate the cause. The LAG will include representatives from Air Force Global Strike Command, the 576th Flight Test Squadron, 30th Space Wing Safety Office and Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, among other organizations.”

399 Minuteman Missiles

The current American force consists of 399 Minuteman III missiles as of September 2017. The missiles are deployed in missile silos in Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming. The system is a component of the U.S. nuclear triad, with the other two parts of the triad being nuclear weapons carried by long-range strategic bombers and Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

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According to an analysis from Stanford University, since its “development during the Cold War, the United States’ ‘nuclear triad’ has retained the important role of bolstering U.S. national security.”

“This multi-faceted approach effectively diversifies the risk involved with a potential first-strike nuclear attack—and increases the ability of an offensive second-strike attack. While the government remains confident in the reliability of the triad as a nuclear deterrent, new dialogue has been established regarding the relevance and feasibility of maintaining specific legs of the triad in the 21st century,” reads a synopsis on the university’s website.