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110618 ICBM launch

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile departs Vandenberg Air Force Base late Tuesday night as part of an operational test.

While many eyes around the Central Coast were fixed on election returns late Tuesday night, an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base as part of an operational test.

The missile, which carried a mock nuclear warhead, was fired from a silo on the base at 11:01 p.m. It hit its intended target in the Pacific Ocean, according to Air Force Global Strike Command, which declined to provide any further details about the results of the test.

“Test launches provide valuable data for U.S. Strategic Command and the U.S. Air Force,” read a portion of a statement from Linda Frost, a spokeswoman for Air Force Global Strike Command.

“A reliable test launch occurs when a test missile launches, completes its flight path within a designated safety corridor, the equipment functions properly, sensor data is collected, and the re-entry vehicle impacts where targeted,” the statement continued. “Though the re-entry vehicle reached its intended target, the test and analysis data is not releasable to the public.”

The purpose of the test launch program, according to the Air Force, is to determine and verify accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system. Air Force officials maintain that the tests are not related to any real world events.

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This report was prepared by Willis Jacobson. He can be reached at wjacobson@leecentralcoastnews.com.

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