Air Force Aborts ICBM Test Flight Just Before Launch For Unknown Reasons
On Wednesday the US Air Force was moments away from a planned test of an unarmed nuclear Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile but aborted prior to launch, according to an official statement.
It was supposed to happen in the early morning hours at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, but “experienced a ground abort prior to launch,” the Air Force Global Strike Command said. No further explanation was given as to why the test launch was shut down, other than the service indicating that the “cause of the ground abort is currently under investigation.”
The news release did however note that ballistic missiles are only launched when “all safety parameters with the test range and missile are met,” according to the news release. The launch is expected to be rescheduled pending the results of the investigation.
As a report in The Hill highlights, a debate is currently raging on Capitol Hill and in the halls of the Pentagon over the near-future viability of the program. “The failed test comes as lawmakers debate whether to proceed with the program to replace the aging Minuteman III missiles or try to extend the life of the missiles,” The Hill writes.
Currently some 400 three-state Minuteman III missiles form the critical land-based ‘last defense’ element in the US nuclear triad, and were first deployed in 1970 with an initial expected 10-year service life. But after undergoing multiple life extensions the Air Force has long argued for their complete replacement, but this would come at a hefty $1.2 trillion or more price tag.
US Strategic Command chief Adm. Charles Richard, who oversees America’s nuclear arsenal, has been pushing for the Ground-based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program to immediately replace the ageing systems.
“We simply cannot continue to indefinitely life-extend Cold War leftover systems,” Richard told Congress last month. “I do not see an operational reason to even attempt to do that.”
Thu, 05/06/2021 – 21:10