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Minuteman 3 Launched in Trial

The U.S. Air Force on Saturday conducted the initial trial firing in 2012 of a Minuteman 3 ICBM, the Santa Maria Times reported (see GSN, Feb. 10).

The missile left its silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 2:46 a.m. Pacific time. It flew roughly 4,200 miles before splashing down as intended in the Pacific Ocean.

"These tests provide us the data necessary to ensure a reliable and effective ICBM force," said Col. David Lair, head of the 576th Flight Test Squadron. "These test launches and our test program bolster the credibility of our strategic deterrent capabilities."

The Air Force manages 450 nuclear-tipped Minuteman 3 missiles fielded in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming. That number is expected to be reduced to 420 under the terms of the U.S.-Russian New START nuclear arms control treaty.

This was the first trial launch of a nonweaponized Minuteman 3 missile since a testing failure in July of last year (see GSN, Aug. 22, 2011).

The Air Force expects to carry out an additional trial on Thursday, with a total of five planned at Vandenberg this year (Santa Maria Times, Feb. 25).


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