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Air Force says Minuteman III missile test launch from Vandenberg hit target

Watch: Late-night missile launch at Vandenberg

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile blasted off for a test launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base late Wednesday night, February 8, 2017. The weapon’s mock re-entry vehicles, equipped to collect data during the testing, travel
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An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile blasted off for a test launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base late Wednesday night, February 8, 2017. The weapon’s mock re-entry vehicles, equipped to collect data during the testing, travel

With a low rumble as it departed Vandenberg Air Force Base, an unarmed Minuteman III missile test launch provided an exclamation point to Election Day.

The weapon, with a mock warhead, blasted out of its underground silo on North Base at 11:01 p.m. Tuesday, the opening of its six-hour launch window.

An hour after launch, neither Air Force Global Strike Command nor Vandenberg representatives provided an update on whether the test was deemed successful.

Upon launch, the military was set to track the mock re-entry vehicle at it traveled to a predetermined target, typically in the Central Pacific Ocean near the Kwajalein Atoll.

In response to query from Noozhawk, Global Strike Command officials ultimately said the test occured as expected.

“A reliable test launch occurs when a test missile launches, completes its flight path within a designated safety corridor, the equipment functions properly, sensor data is collected, and the reentry vehicle impacts where targeted,” said Joe Thomas, a spokesman for Louisiana-based Global Strike Command, which oversees nuclear weapons. “Though the reentryvehicle reached its intended target, the test and analysis data is not releasable to the public.”

For at least 25 years, it has been standard procedure for the Air Force to notify the Central Coast residents through the media about upcoming tests and then the success or early termination of those Minuteman III launches.

The Air Force conducts approximately four Minuteman III missile tests annually from Vandenberg to gather information about the weapon system’s accuracy and reliability.

The last test, on July 31, ended prematurely with Vandenberg personnel sending a self-destruct command due to some unspecific anomaly spotted during the flight.

The dates for the tests are chosen years in advance with preparations occurring months before the blastoff. Air Force officials have said its Minuteman III tests are not in response to any real-world situation.

Some 450 nuclear-tipped Minuteman III missiles sit on alert in and around Malmstrom AFB, Montana; F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming and Minot AFB, North Dakota.

This was the first of three planned launches from Vandenberg in November.

Later this month, a Space Exploration Technologies, SpaceX, Falcon rocket is scheduled to blastoff from Space Launch Complex-4 on South Base to carry multiple small satellites to space.

A week after Thanksgiving, United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV-Heavy rocket is set to carry a top-secret payload into orbit from Space Launch Complex-6 on South Base.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.
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