Minuteman III ballistic missile self-destructs during test launch

U.S. Army photo

A US Air Force Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) was forced to self-destruct during a test launch.  

Launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on November 1, 2023, the unarmed missile was intended to travel a distance of nearly 4,350 miles (about 7000 kilometers) over the Pacific Ocean, ultimately splashing down near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  

However, the Minuteman III had to self-destruct in flight due to an undisclosed “anomaly.” 

“A Launch Analysis Group is forming to investigate the cause,” the US Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), responsible for conducting the Minuteman III tests, said in a statement. “Gathering data from the launch allows AFGSC to identify and correct any issues with the weapon system to ensure the Minuteman III’s continued reliability and accuracy.” 

The Minuteman III, the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that currently composes the ground-based portion of the US nuclear deterrence triad, was developed by Boeing and has been in service for over half a century, with its first deployment dating back to June 1970.  

Since 2019, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and the United States Air Force have been working on a successor to the LGM-30 Minuteman. The future LGM-35A Sentinel ICBM, composed of the Mk21A reentry vehicle and the W87-1 nuclear warhead, is expected to enter service by 2029. 

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