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Minuteman missile test blasts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base

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

After a one-day delay caused by a labor dispute, an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile blasted off for a test launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base late Wednesday night.

The weapon, with mock warheads, launched from an underground silo on North Base at 11:39 p.m., the opening of the six-hour window.

“Today’s launch was an important demonstration of our nation’s ICBM capabilities,” said Col. Chris Moss, 30th Space Wing commander and launch decision authority for the mission.

“As with all launches from the Western Range, it requires tremendous teamwork and focus to ensure a safe and successful launch. 30th Space Wing is proud to have partnered with the men and women of the 576th Flight Test Squadron and Air Force Global Strike Command to deliver this important mission for the nation,” Moss added.

The weapon’s mock re-entry vehicles, equipped to collect data during the testing, traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands to predetermined targets.

The Air Force regularly conducts Minuteman III test launches to verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system. Tests like the one conducted Wednesday night provide valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent, Air Force officials said.

Members of the 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg installed test-unique equipment on the weapon, while a task force from the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base helped prep the weapon for this week’s test.

Minot AFB is one of three missile bases with crew members standing alert 24 hours a day overseeing the nation’s ICBM alert forces.

The test launch was delayed from Tuesday night because of a labor dispute involving approximately a dozen RG Next employees who recently agreed to be represented by Teamsters Local 986.

Representatives of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation criticized the U.S. test, which came days after the Trump administration criticized Iran for conducting a ballistic missile test.

“Test-firing these missiles while expressing criticism when other countries conduct missile tests is a clear double standard,” said David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. “Such hypocrisy encourages nuclear proliferation and nuclear arms races, and makes the world a more dangerous place.”

Noozhawk is a Santa Barbara-based news website. North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.

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