Unarmed ICBM Launched from California for System Test

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An unarmed Minuteman III missile launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base on Sept. 2, 2020
An Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 12:02 Pacific Daylight Time on Sept. 2, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. (Courtesy photo by Connor Riley)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched early Wednesday from California to a target in the Pacific Ocean in a test of the defense system, the Air Force said.

The missile blasted off from a silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 12:03 a.m., and its re-entry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles (6,759 kilometers) to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The Air Force said the test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM system.

The missile was brought to Vandenberg from the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, but technicians and missile combat crews involved in the test came from an array of units.

"This demonstrates that even during the pandemic, Air Force Global Strike Command maintains various levels of redundant capability to assure a national deterrent," said a statement from command headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

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