An Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is launched during an operational test Wednesday morning from Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. Photo by Michael Peterson/U.S. Space Force
Aug. 11 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force says the nation's nuclear arsenal is effective and ready following the successful test launch of a missile early Wednesday morning.
The unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California shortly before 1 a.m. on Wednesday, according to an Air Force press release.
Overseen by the Air Force Global Strike Command, the purpose of the test was to check the weapon system's security and effectiveness.
"These test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent," Col. Robert Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander who was in charge of the launch, said in a statement.
The test involved launching a Hi Fidelity Joint Test Assembly re-entry vehicle that detonated non-nuclear explosives before it hit the Pacific Ocean near Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
Col. Aaron Boudreau, Task Force commander, said in a statement that the test was planned and not in response to world events.
Although the Air Force continues to test Minuteman 3 missiles, the Defense Department last year awarded a $13.3 billion contract contract to Northrop Grumman to develop the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, a next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile system.
In April, the company was awarded a separate $2.3 billion contract for the propulsion system maintenance of the Minuteman III missile system that runs through 2040.