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For the second time this month, an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Thursday morning as part of an operational test that once again drew complaints from anti-nuclear weapons activists.

The ICBM, which is part of the U.S. nuclear weapons system, was blasted from a silo on northern VAFB at 12:40 a.m.

The test followed a similar operation that was performed in the early morning hours of May 1.

Col. Kris Barcomb, a 30th Operations Group commander, was the launch decision authority.

"It is our mission at the 30th Space Wing to provide robust and efficient range capabilities for the nation, and to do so safely and effectively," Barcomb said, according to 30th Space Wing Public Affairs.

"The Western Range plays an integral role in national security, and our ICBM test launch program helps maintain the credibility of our nuclear deterrent," he continued. "Launching two Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles one week apart is a true testament to the capabilities of Team Vandenberg."

Just like the May 1 test, though, Thursday's exercise also drew a rebuke from representatives of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit that advocates for a world free of nuclear weapons.

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"At a time when the U.S. has been busy withdrawing from and destroying arms control treaties and are threatening war with Iran, the Air Force has announced yet another ICBM test to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base under the cover of darkness," David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, said in a statement released hours before the launch.

"This is the second ICBM test to take place within the last month," he added. "If we choose to have a world in which our citizens are safe and secure from nuclear attack, the proper path to do this would be leadership toward nuclear disarmament rather than nuclear muscle flexing.”

The Minuteman III missile system is the U.S.'s only ground-based nuclear weapon system.

Air Force officials have maintained that the ICBM tests are planned months in advance and are not related to any specific real-world events.

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Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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Reporter

Willis Jacobson covers news and other issues, primarily those that affect the Lompoc Valley and Vandenberg Air Force Base, for Lee Central Coast News. He is a graduate of The University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications.