The United States tested an intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California.
The military fired an unarmed Minuteman III missile, carrying a dummy warhead. It was fired from an underground silo on the northwest portion of the base at 1:23 a.m. on Monday, May 14, making it the second Minuteman missile test in three weeks, according to local news website Noozhawk.com.
Vandenberg Air Force Base is located in Santa Barbara County north of the city of Lompoc.
Vandenberg usually carries out four Minuteman missile tests each year to gather information about the weapon system’s accuracy and reliability.
Reports said that the missile flew about 4,100 miles and dropped into the designated test site near the Kwajalein Atoll area in the central Pacific Ocean.
The current U.S. force consists of 399 Minuteman III missiles as of September 2017. They’re deployed in missile silos in Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming. It 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.
According to 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.
The first “leg” of the triad are American strategic bombers, including the B-29, B-36, B-52, and B-2 aircraft. According to the website, due to their flexibility, “strategic bombers have been an essential part of the triad and can function as both a first and second strike attacker.”
ICBMs, the website says, are ” well protected against first strike attacks (although some claim their stationary nature makes them more vulnerable).” They’re also cheaper than the other parts of the triad.
However, the submarine-launched ballistic missiles, or SLBM, are “often considered the most critical leg of the triad,” Stanford’s website says. “The rationale comes from the fact that submarines are very difficult to track and destroy—making them almost invulnerable to first strike attacks and increasing their value as a second strike attacker.”