The Air Force successfully test launched an unarmed Minuteman III ICBM yesterday from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., according to the service.

The Air Force test launches a Minuteman III ICBM in September 2010. Photo: Air Force.

The purpose of the launch was to validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system. The test also supports the United States’ strategic deterrence efforts as outlined in the Defense Department’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review by demonstrating the operational credibility of the Minuteman III.

Air Force spokeswoman Michele Tasista said yesterday the service defines a successful test as one in which the missile launches, completes its flight path within the narrow safety corridor, equipment functions properly and the simulated re-entry vehicle impacts the intended area.

Tasista said the Minuteman III traveled approximately 4,190 miles toward its target, the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, and landed safely in the ocean. Tasista said flight time was approximately 30 minutes. Data collected during the test launch would further validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the Minuteman III weapon system while providing valuable information to assist the Air Force in sustaining and modernizing the weapon system through 2030.

Tasista said the next Minuteman III test launch is scheduled for Sept. 25. DoD in April postponed a test launch due to tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The Air Force in November successfully launched a Minuteman III with a simulated re-entry vehicle from Vandenberg. Northrop Grumman [NOC] is the prime integrator for Minuteman III while Boeing [BA] performs maintenance and sustainment in support of the entire system.