U.S. Air Force Destroys Minuteman III ICBM After Failed Test
CALIFORNIA — August 1, 2018
A Minuteman III ICBM was destroyed shortly after launch from Vandenberg AFB following some kind of malfunction. The launch was a regular test aimed at Kwajalein in the Pacific. The Air Force sent the self-destruct message to the missile at 4:42 Pacific time.
The intercontinental ballistic missile had been launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The cause of the termination, according to the Air Force, was due to an anomaly, which is an unexpected event that takes place during a missile test.
“Since anomalies may arise from many factors relating to the operational platform itself, or the test equipment, careful analysis is needed to identify the cause,” read a statement from Air Force Global Strike Command. “A Launch Analysis Group is forming to investigate the cause. The LAG will include representatives from Air Force Global Strike Command, the 576th Flight Test Squadron, 30th Space Wing Safety Office and Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, among other organizations.”
A launch analysis group is being formed from various Air Force organizations.
The current American force consists of 399 Minuteman III missiles as of September 2017. The missiles are deployed in missile silos in Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
The test launch program helps the command evaluate the Minuteman III and gather data to keep the system effective, according to the Air Force.
The test had been scheduled for a window between 12:01 and 6:01 a.m. Tuesday.
The Air Force conducts these readiness tests on any occasion, launching ICBM from the West Coast out to the sea. Air Force officials said prior to the test that it was unrelated to any real-world current events.
This so-called mission is called by the acronym MFCOs, which is pronounced "Miff-Coes."
Sometime during the flight, the ICBM lost control. Either alone or with the consent of higher-ups, the MFCO decided the missile needed to be killed. If it happened during the early phase of flight, there could have been an MFCO on the hot seat trying to explain to superiors why such a drastic step was necessary.
“This is the same class of missiles for which the U.S. has been highly critical of the North Koreans for developing and testing,” said Rick Wayman, deputy director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, about the tests. “How can the United States demand North Korea’s good faith in denuclearization while the U.S. continues its own ICBM testing? The hypocrisy is nothing new, but what stands out with this test is the potential for blowing up the peace process underway with North Korea.”
According to an analysis from Stanford University, since its “development during the Cold War, the United States’ ‘nuclear triad’ has retained the important role of bolstering U.S. national security.”
“This multi-faceted approach effectively diversifies the risk involved with a potential first-strike nuclear attack — and increases the ability of an offensive second-strike attack. While the government remains confident in the reliability of the triad as a nuclear deterrent, a new dialogue has been established regarding the relevance and feasibility of maintaining specific legs of the triad in the 21st century,” said in a press release.