The 12th Missile Squadron at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., conducted an annual ritual April 15 by simulating the electronic launch of a Minuteman III ICBM to verify that the weapon system would operate as intended if the President actually gave the launch command. It also gave operators the chance to exercise parts of the system that cannot be tested unless the missile is activated. “This test plays a vital role in our strategic deterrent mission at Malmstrom,” said Col. Sandy Finan, commander of the base’s 341st Space Wing under which the 12th MS falls. During the event, procedures were carried out from the key turns of the missileers and opening of the missile silo’s 110-ton concrete blast door up to the first-stage ignition, but since the missile was in safe mode, it could not—and did not—actually launch, the Great Falls Tribune reported April 16. Testing also included verifying the ability of Airborne Command Post aircraft to send launch codes to the missile. (Includes Malmstrom report by A1C Dillon White)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.