msnbc.com
updated 7/27/2011 11:24:13 AM ET 2011-07-27T15:24:13

An unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile was destroyed in flight early Wednesday due to an "anomaly" shortly after blasting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, military officials said.

Air Force controllers detected a "flight anomaly" and decided to destroy the missile about 5 minutes after launch for safety reasons, the base said in a news release. The missile was over a broad ocean area, northeast of Roi-Namur, an island in the northern part of the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, when it was destroyed.

"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, 30th Space Wing chief of safety. "Established parameters were exceeded and controllers sent destruct commands."

Details of what went wrong with the missile were not released. An Air Force team is investigating.

This was the second Minuteman 3 test from Vandenberg since late June.

a communications problem forced the launch command to be issued by ground control rather than an airborne launch control system, according to The Associated Press.

The Air Force regularly tests unarmed ICBMs to gather data about the weapon system's accuracy and reliability. The U.S. has some 450 ICBMs at bases in and around Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Minuteman III missiles are designed to carry nuclear warheads.

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