An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was unable to conduct a planned test launch from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. on May 5th.
“The unarmed missile in test configuration reacted exactly as it was designed, terminating the launch on the ground when it detected a fault in its launch sequence,” U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) wrote in a May 5th email regarding the “Glory Trip 238” flight test. “We won’t speculate on causes as this is under investigation. The Minuteman III fleet remains on alert 24/7/365 in the continental United States. The Minuteman III fleet is safe, secure and effective to conduct their mission. Minuteman III was first placed on alert in 1970 and has provided nuclear deterrence 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year.”
AFGSC said that it is investigating the cause of the ground abort as well as the potential to reschedule the launch.
Since 2009, AFGSC has been in charge of the Minuteman III, previously under the purview of Air Force Space Command. The Vandenberg flight tests of Minuteman–so named because of its ability to be launched with a minimum of pre-flight procedures–began on Aug. 18, 1965.
The last unsuccessful unarmed flight test of a Minuteman III was on July 31, 2018. In that test–Glory Trip 225–the missile developed an “anomaly” during flight, and AFGSC terminated the test flight over the Pacific Ocean.
AFGSC said that the causes of launch anomalies “are not releasable.”
The Biden administration is reviewing nuclear policy, and some defense analysts believe that the White House may significantly alter the triad and cut the Northrop Grumman [NOC] Ground Based Strategic Deterrent nuclear modernization program in favor of a service life extension of some or all 400 Boeing [BA] Minuteman IIIs (Defense Daily, Apr. 22).