6/16/2010 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A scheduled Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test was launched here at 3:01 a.m. June 16 from Launch Facility-10.
The flight test was the first for the 576th Flight Test Squadron since its realignment under Air Force Global Strike Command.
The missile's single re-entry test vehicle traveled approximately 4,190 miles before hitting its pre-determined target near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
"Team Vandenberg's coordination was phenomenal resulting in a seamless launch operation," said Col. Steven Winters, the 30th Space Wing vice commander and Launch Decision Authority.
MMIII missiles launched from Vandenberg carry sophisticated data collection equipment, according to Col. Carl DeKemper, the 576th FLTS commander. ICBM analysts, including the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, will use the data collected from this mission for continuing force development evaluation.
"For more than 50 years, Vandenberg has been at the forefront of testing and improving ICBMs to ensure the readiness and reliability of our fleet," said Col. DeKemper. "Our team is dedicated to ensuring a safe, secure and effective combat-ready ICBM force."
The LGM-30G Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, is an element of the nation's strategic deterrent forces under the control of the Air Force Global Strike Command. The "L" in LGM is the Department of Defense designation for silo-launched; "G" means surface attack; and "M" stands for guided missile.
The Minuteman is a strategic weapon system using a ballistic missile of intercontinental range. Missiles are dispersed in hardened silos to protect against attack and connected to an underground launch control center through a system of hardened cables. Launch crews, consisting of two officers, perform around-the-clock alert in the launch control center.
A variety of communication systems provide the president and secretary of defense with highly reliable, virtually instantaneous direct contact with each launch crew. Should command capability be lost between the launch control center and remote missile launch facilities, specially configured E-6B airborne launch control center aircraft automatically assume command and control of the isolated missile or missiles. Fully qualified airborne missile combat crews aboard airborne launch control center aircraft would execute the president's orders.
An extensive life extension program is underway to keep the remaining missiles safe, secure and reliable well into the 21st century. These major programs include: remanufacture of the solid-propellant rocket motors, replacement of standby power systems, repair of launch facilities, and installation of updated, survivable communications equipment and additional security enhancements.
The Minuteman weapon system was conceived in the late 1950s and Minuteman I was deployed in the early 1960s. Minuteman was a revolutionary concept and an extraordinary technical achievement. Both the missile and basing components incorporated significant advances beyond the relatively slow-reacting, liquid-fueled, remotely-controlled intercontinental ballistic missiles of the previous generation. From the beginning, Minuteman missiles have provided a quick-reacting, inertially guided, highly survivable component to America's strategic deterrent program. Minuteman's maintenance concept capitalizes on high reliability and a "remove and replace" approach to achieve a near 100 percent alert rate.
Through state-of-the-art improvements, the Minuteman system has evolved to meet new challenges and assume new missions. Modernization programs have resulted in new versions of the missile, expanded targeting options, improved accuracy and survivability. Today's Minuteman weapon system is the product of almost 40 years of continuous enhancement.
The current Minuteman force consists of 450 Minuteman III's located at the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.; the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, Mont.; and the 91st Missile at Minot AFB, N.D.
Primary Function: Intercontinental ballistic missile Contractor: Boeing Co. Power Plant: Three solid-propellant rocket motors; first stage - Thiokol; second stage - Aerojet-General; third stage - United Technologies Chemical Systems Division Thrust: First stage, 202,600 pounds Length: 59.9 feet (18 meters) Weight: 79,432 pounds (32,158 kilograms) Diameter: 5.5 feet (1.67 meters) Range: 6,000-plus miles (5,218 nautical miles) Speed: Approximately 15,000 mph (Mach 23 or 24,000 kph) at burnout Ceiling: 700 miles (1,120 kilometers) Date deployed: June 1970, production cessation: December 1978 Inventory: Active force, 450; Reserve, 0; ANG, 0
Country: United States of AmericaAlternate Name: LGM-30GClass: ICBMBasing: Silo basedLength: 18.20 mDiameter: 1.85 mLaunch Weight: 34467 kgPayload: 3 MIRV Mk 12, or 12A, or 21 on PBV plus penetration aidsWarhead: Nuclear W62 170 kT, W78 335 to 350 kT, W87 300 to 475 kTPropulsion: 3-stage solidRange: 13000 kmStatus: OperationalIn Service: 1970Details
The LGM-30G Minuteman III is an intercontinental-range, silo-based, solid propellant ballistic missile system. The third member of the Minuteman family, it is the product of over 40 years of continual innovation and improvement. It was and remains the crux of the American nuclear deterrent. When it entered service in 1970, it brought the size of the total Minuteman force to over a thousand missiles. It is an effective response system with an extremely fast launch time, a nearly 100 percent reliability and backup airborne launch controllers to ensure a counterstrike.
The Minuteman III is a strategic asset designed to be deployed in quantity against targets in the Soviet Union. It is equipped with multiple warheads to further increase the number of targets that can be effectively attacked. It is likely targeted against major civilian population centers rather than Russian missile silos. Due to large numbers of mobile and submarine-based ICBMs, as well as early warning radar systems, a first strike with the Minuteman III would not succeed under any circumstances. For this reason, it is likely that the missile follows official US doctrine and is targeted purely against soft strategic targets such as bases and population centers. However, this system has all the characteristics of an effective counterforce weapon; its high accuracy, large numbers and multiple warheads could theoretically devastate Soviet missile silos. Its high accuracy compensated for the relatively low yield on the original model by maximizing the population density or strategic importance of a smaller target, though this is less of an issue with the 335-350 kT Mark 12A RV.
The Minuteman III missile has a maximum range of 13,000 km (8078 miles) and carries a payload of three Reentry Vehicles (RVs). The missile originally used the 170 kT yield Mark 12 RV and later, the slightly heavier 335-350 kT Mark 12A RV. However, it is reported that increasing numbers of the LGM-30G missiles are equipped with the larger and likely more accurate single 300-475 kT Mark 21 RV. The original inertial navigation system provided it with an accuracy of about 200 m CEP, but an updated inertial guidance system gives it 120 m CEP. The missile is 18.2 m long with a diameter of 1.85 m and a launch weight of 34,468 kg. The missile technically has a three-stage solid propellant design, though it has a quasi-powered fourth stage. Its Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRV) platform was designed in such a way that it is arguably a fourth stage, but as this is restricted by the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II), it is not referred to as such.
The Minuteman III entered development in 1966 as an improvement program for the earlier Minuteman missile systems. The system first entered operational service in 1970 and reached a total of 550 missiles for many years, until the LGM-118 Peacemaker program began in 1986. In 1993, 529 Minuteman III missiles remained in service, with 45 reportedly non-operational. The current 500 Minuteman III are having their service lives extended until 2020, when the LGM-30H Minuteman IV is expected to replace them. Currently 700 to 800 new SERV Mk 21 Rv warheads are being fitted to the remaining missiles.
The LGM-30G Minuteman III missiles are in the process of being downgraded to single RV designs and are undergoing a series of improvement programs to maintain combat effectiveness. The reduction in the number of warheads is occurring in order to decrease the threat from our missile systems, based on the theory that it will decrease the probability of a counterforce strike from rival nuclear nations. This effectively eliminates two-thirds of our strike capacity and has the side effect of significantly decreasing the probability of a successful counterstrike. With the planned removal of the LGM-118 Peacemaker missile, the Minuteman III will become the only US land-based ICBM in service.(1)