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"ICBM Test Failure Puts Nuclear Modernization Effort Into Focus"

  • 06 Nov 2023 06:40
    Message # 13275903


    An unarmed Minuteman III missile was terminated during a test launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., due to an anomaly on Nov. 1.  

    While the Air Force is investigating to pinpoint the issue, Tim Ryan, Senior Resident Fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, said that he doesn’t believe the anomaly is linked to the age of the Minuteman system, suggesting it could have been caused by a variety of reasons.


    Anomaly can represent any deviation or irregularity from the expected or projected behavior during the launch and testing process of the missile, which itself is an “extremely rigid and rigorous” regime.

    Ryan emphasized that MM III technology remains reliable, as proven through regular flight tests conducted multiple times a year. The nuclear-capable missile has a range of 6,000-plus miles and can travel at approximately 15,000 miles per hour.

    However, he added that other aspects of the weapon system, such as the silo, electronics, and warhead, are equally as old, and have been long neglected.

    “As a whole, the weapon system is reliable. But it could use vital upgrades, just to be able to bring the weapon system up to date,” said Ryan.

    The Pentagon is accelerating the Sentinel tasks to meet the operational goal by Sept. 2030, as part of the nation’s broader modernization initiative of all three components of nuclear forces—air, land, and sea.

    The Sentinel program is currently updating its integrated master schedule alongside Air Force and Office of the Secretary of Defense efforts to implement new acquisition strategies, an Air Force Spokesperson told Air & Space Forces Magazine.

    The Air Force also contracted Lockheed Martin to produce customized reentry vehicle MK21A for the ICBM, expected to be completed by 2039.

    The RV program has just entered the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) on Oct. 30, the spokesperson added.

    However, challenges still exist regarding the timely delivery of the Sentinel system.

    Last modified: 06 Nov 2023 06:44 | Anonymous member

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