Minuteman III ICBM Destroyed During Test Launch

So, the Air Force just lost a decades-old Minuteman III ICBM during a test launch this morning out of Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The missile was destroyed northeast of the pacific Island of Roi Namur by officials with Vandenberg’s western test range after they detected a “flight anomaly,” according to an Air Force announcement.

While the announcement didn’t elaborate on the “anomaly” the missile most likely showed signs of diverting from its planned flight path. It’s far too early to tell what went wrong with the aging ICBM.

The service periodically fires off a Minuteman (without its nuclear payload) to prove that the missiles still work.

The missiles, which entered service in 1970, have been receiving a massive overhaul to keep them operational for the coming decades until a replacement can be developed. Everything from their launch silos and control facilities to their propulsion and guidance systems have been or are in the midst of being upgraded. Some 200 of the 450 Minuteman IIIs are having their older W78 nuclear warheads replaced with the newer, safer W87 warheads pulled from deactivated Peacekeeper ICBMs.

Interestingly, the Roi Namur island is home to several military radar sites and is part of the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Site (which has several rocket launch facilities) based on the Kwajalein Atoll.

Here’s the text of the Air Force announcment:

An unarmed operational test Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was destroyed by Vandenberg’s Western Range officials July 27 after launching from here.

Air Force controllers detected a flight anomaly and terminated the flight for safety reasons. When terminated, the vehicle was in the broad ocean area, northeast of Roi-Namur.

“At all times public safety is paramount. We plan for situations like this and everything was executed according to the plan,” said Col. Matthew Carroll, the 30th Space Wing chief of safety. “Established parameters were exceeded, and controllers sent destruct commands.”

The launch was an operational test to determine the weapon system’s reliability and accuracy.

An Air Force team will investigate the cause of the anomaly.

11 Comments on "Minuteman III ICBM Destroyed During Test Launch"

  1. Well, that would be another problem in the great debate of how much to decrease military spending. Another pressure point would be this: http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/tre76q1x1-us-chi

    Russia is said to be increasing its military budget by a half and the threats keep on growing with Chinese sub sales to Pakistan, problems with F-22s, and tension increasing in the usual hotspots.

    One would think cooler heads better prevail here right about NOW…

  2. The real story as to why it was destroyed in flight is, the MM3 had diverted from it's flight path and was headed towards Washington D.C. (sarcasm on my part of course)

  3. Could it of been intercepted by the Roi-Namur defense base? As a ICBM shoot down test.

  4. Here's hoping that it was a test of a classified BMD system.

  5. Older "W78" and much safer "W87" model nuclear warheads. Not much chance of those two ever becoming confused, eh?

    Let's hope every single person on the team has no instances of lysdexia.

  6. Meanwhile in mother Russia:

    MOSCOW, July 27 (Xinhua) — Russia successfully fired an inter-continental ballistic Sineva missile Sineva in the Barents Sea on Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said.
      The ICBM launch was carried out on the Northern Fleet's Yekaterinburg nuclear submarine in an underwater position and hit a target in the northeastern Kamchatka Peninsula as planned, the ministry said.
      This was the third test of the three-stage Sineva ICBM this year after two previous successful launches in the spring.
      The Sineva, which is a liquid-propellant missile with a maximum range of over 10,000 km and can carry four to 10 nuclear warheads, has been in Russian Navy service since July 2007. Every Yekaterinburg submarine carries 16 Sineva missiles. The Sineva will remain Russia's principal ICBM for sea deployment until 2030.

  7. Never got the logic of retiring the MX's while keeping MM3's as old as me.

    I guess there was some throw weight formula or something in the arms treaty?

    Deterrence doesn't work if a few more of these test launches come up lame.

  8. Don't forget all of our Trident SSBN's are due for retirement within the next few years…the Navy needs to appropriate BILLIONS now to design and build 10-12 new SSBNs. Can't see how we can possibly reduce the defense budget now. Unless we take the Brit approach of completely gutting its surface fleet AND eliminating the Fleet Air Arm, in order to build their new Trident sub replacements.

    Since personnel costs (pay, benefits, housing, dependent schools, day care, etc) are 60% or more of the entire DOD budget and expected to climb much higher, there won't be much cash left over for operational expenses (training, fuel, spares…) and buying new stuff. We might have no choice but to seriously consider bringing back conscription.

  9. When the Carnegie Endowment for Peace is saying "replace the MMIII" it must really be time to replace the MMIII.

    My choice a new Peacekeeper + sized missile

  10. you guys are so cocky its disgusting…

  11. They have had over 200+ test of the MM3 since it was deployed in 1970. Boeing has
    upgraded the guidance system, but the overall ICBM design is very old. Now Boeing
    has a new Air Force contract to design and deploy an Anti Ballistic Missile shield worth
    3.48 Billion USD. I hope they will be more proffesional with this program, than with the
    Minuteman III.

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