U.S. Air Force launches ICBM test missile off Central California coast

10 February 2017

An unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile was launched Wednesday night from Vandenberg Air Force Base as part of an operational test.

The Minuteman III missile launch occurred at 11:39 p.m. at the base just north of Lompoc and lit up the sky of California’s Central Coast, according to the U.S. Air Force. The missile was equipped with a non-explosive payload that recorded flight data, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

The missile traveled 4,200 miles to a test range in Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The test was conducted by the Air Force Global Strike Command’s team from the 91st Missile wing at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. The base is one of three missile bases overseeing the country’s intercontinental ballistic missile forces.

In a statement, Col. Chris Moss, Vandenberg’s 30th Space Wing commander, said the launch was “an important demonstration of our nation's ICBM capabilities.”

The launch was designed to test the missile’s accuracy and reliability as well as “providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent,” the Air Force said.

The missile launch was delayed 24 hours because of a labor dispute, according to the Santa Maria Times. The dispute involved a group of 13 employees who work for RGNext and are involved in launch operations and planning, the paper reported.