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U.S. tests Minuteman III ballistic missile to demonstrate nuclear force readiness

The launch helps to “validate and verify the safety, security, effectiveness, and readiness of the weapon system,” the military said.
GT243 Launches from Vandenberg
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test Tuesday at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas / U.S. Air Force

The U.S. military said it tested an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile Tuesday to "validate and verify" the nuclear weapon system’s effectiveness and safety.

The test was conducted at 12:49 a.m. PT from Vandenberg Space Force Base in Santa Barbara County, California.

"These test launches demonstrate the readiness of U.S. nuclear forces and provide confidence in the lethality and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear deterrent," said Col. Bryan Titus, vice commander of Space Launch Delta 30.

The military said in a statement that the launch helped to "validate and verify the safety, security, effectiveness, and readiness of the weapon system."

Minuteman missiles have formed the core of the U.S. land-based nuclear capability for 60 years. Tuesday's test was delayed this month to avoid increasing tensions with China over Taiwan. China had launched several military exercises in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the Beijing-claimed island on Aug. 2.

A test launch was also canceled in April over concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin would view it as escalatory amid Russia's attack on Ukraine.

"The Department of the Air Force recently cancelled the routinely planned test flight of an LGM-30G Minuteman III missile," the Defense Department’s deputy press secretary, Todd Breasseale, said at the time. "The launch had been previously delayed due to an overabundance of caution to avoid misinterpretation or miscommunication during the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine."

The Air Force generally tests four Minuteman III rockets a year, planned out months and sometimes years in advance. Canceling or postponing a test because of concerns a launch could be provocative is very rare.