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News > Vandenberg prepares for Minuteman III launch, 40 years after maiden flight
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile configured with a National Nuclear Security Administration joint test assembly launches May 22 from North Vandenberg's Launch Facility-10. The launch was an operational test to determine the weapon system’s reliability and accuracy. The missile's single unarmed re-entry vehicle traveled approximately 5,250 miles before hitting its pre-determined target in a broad ocean area 230 nautical miles southwest of Guam.(Air Force photo)
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Vandenberg prepares for Minuteman III launch, 40 years after maiden flight

Posted 8/8/2008   Updated 8/11/2008 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Erica Stewart
30th Space Wing Public Affairs

8/8/2008 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Vandenberg plans to launch a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile on Aug. 13, almost 40 years after its maiden flight. 

The Minuteman weapon system, a revolutionary concept and an extraordinary technical achievement, was conceived in the late 1950s, and the Minuteman I was deployed in the early 1960s. 

The first Minuteman missile wasn't launched at Vandenberg until 1969 and the program continues to evolve with the Air Force's ever changing needs. 

Through state-of-the-art improvements, the Minuteman system has developed to meet new challenges and assume new missions. Modernization programs have resulted in new versions of the missile, expanded targeting options, and improved accuracy and survivability, according to Air Force documents. 

"The Minuteman III weapon system is 40 years of technological advances to the intercontinental ballistic missile program," said Capt. Steve Bonin, 576th Flight Test Squadron test launch officer. "The goal of this program is to provide accuracy and reliability data for planners, while ultimately helping to ensure strategic deterrence, as well as maintaining these weapons at the highest level of safety, security and reliability." 

Vandenberg works to keep their Minuteman III missiles safe, secure and reliable through months of readiness inspections and checks before the actual launch date. 

"Normally, the 576th FLTS begins working on operational test launches five months from the operational test launch date," said Captain Bonin. "However, these missiles launch through a joint effort with many base agencies and collaboration with the Army and Navy." 

Working closely with the Navy by using the Pacific Missile Range Facility, the 576th FLTS is able to ensure mid-range radar and telemetry coverage. 

This joint effort continues downrange where the Army provides similar coverage through the use of the Reagan Test Site, located on the Kwajalein Atoll. 

"A close working relationship must be maintained in order to ensure continued success with the collection of mission critical data throughout the missile's flight downrange," Captain Bonin said. 

Teamwork being the key theme in this intercontinental ballistic missile test launch, the 576th FLTS captain also respects the opportunities the missile career field has given him. 

"Keeping the teamwork aspect in mind, the best part of my job is that we also get to work closely with missile maintenance," Captain Bonin said. "Here we have missile maintenance in one squadron, as well as operations, which allows me to learn a whole lot about this system." 

As with every mission, safety is key in this upcoming launch and Vandenberg has no doubt that this mission will go smoothly, as have all the others. 

"Vandenberg has a flawless launch record on the launch pad and we maintain operations to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the system to expound deterrence down range," said Captain Bonin.

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