By 1st Lt Ieva Bytautaite, 20th Air Force Public Affairs
/ Published April 30, 2020
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during a developmental test at 12:33 a.m. Pacific Time Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Wear)
There is no question about it - the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) mission is a unique portion of the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) nuclear enterprise. Even as the nation is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, the nuclear mission requires a 24/7/365 work force that is always ready and reliable.
Operational tests of unarmed Minuteman III ICBMs, which are conducted by the 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, are no exception and currently still on schedule. Test launches are a vital part of ensuring reliability and capability of the weapon system and provide valuable data to ensure a continued lethal, safe and sure nuclear capability. The tests also serve as a visible sign of mission capability of the ICBM force to our allies and partners.
The process of selecting sorties for testing is random, ensuring an accurate representation of the force.
“This way we have confidence that the operational force is lethal, accurate and ready,” said Maj. Gen. Fred Stoss, 20th Air Force commander.
The next test launch is currently scheduled for August, and the test sortie is already en-route to Vandenberg AFB.
“We have always been ready before COVID-19, we are going to be ready during COVID-19, I assure you that,” said Stoss. “And we will be ready as we recover, after COVID-19, with no change in margin and no change in readiness.”