Airborne Launch of Minuteman III Called a Success
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) _ The Air Force successfully test-launched an unarmed Minuteman III missile from an airplane early today, a spokesman said.
The intercontinental ballistic missile was launched at 5:40 a.m. from a modified Boeing EC135 jet at Vandenberg Air Force Base, said Senior Airman Bruce Fredette. Its unarmed re-entry vehicles hit their targets about 30 minutes later in the Kwajalein Missile Range in the south Pacific, 4,200 miles from the launch site, he said.
″The airborne launch capability allows crews flying in specially modified Boeing EC135 jets to provide a backup ... in case ground-based launch crews are unable to send missile launch commands to the Minuteman missiles,″ Fredette said.
The 12-year-old missile was removed from a silo at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming more than three months ago and shipped to Vandenberg, 140 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Fredette said the Air Force periodically removes Minuteman missiles from service and launches them ″so we know our ICBM force works.″
The launches also provide data on the missiles’ accuracy and training for launch crews. The squadron that performed today’s launch was from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.