The United States Air Force tests its nuclear Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile periodically, launching the 1970s ICBMs to prove that they work correctly. Of course, without nuclear warheads. They just lost a missile that went rogue on July 27.
The missile was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The missile suffered a "flight anomaly" over the Pacific Ocean. While the Air Force hasn't specified what the flight anomaly was, it was probably a problem with its flight path. They are currently investigating the causes of the failure.
The unarmed Minuteman III was destroyed by Western Range officials over the Pacific Ocean, northeast of Roi-Namur, an island in the northern part of the Kwajalein atoll, in the Marshalls. According to Colonel Matthew Carroll — 30th Space Wing chief of safety — the destruction sequence was completely safe:
At all times public safety is paramount. We plan for situations like this and everything was executed according to the plan. Established parameters were exceeded, and controllers sent destruct commands.
The Minuteman III LGM-30G intercontinental ballistic missile is the backbone of the United States' nuclear force, and the only land-based nuclear ICBM. The program started in 1966 and entered service in 1970. The missile has three solid fuel stages.
It was the first missile in the world capable of delivering three independent 330 kiloton nuclear warheads to three independent targets, a capability that was shortly abandoned after the START-II treaty was signed by Presidents George H. W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin on Januar 3, 1993.
Through decades the Minuteman III has been retrofitted to keep it into operation, going through upgrades in propulsion and guidance. Right now, they are being retrofitted with new nuclear warheads coming from retired LGM-118A Peacekeeper missiles. Ironically, those missiles were retired after the START II program in 2005. They were supposed to replace the Minuteman III fleet entirely. The Air Force is planning to keep the Minuteman III in service until 2030.
Unless Lex Luthor sneaks into their computers to change the current real estate situation in California. [8
2030. [Defense Tech]