The Air Force successfully launched a Minuteman III ICBM over the Pacific Ocean on a test shot from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., early Wednesday morning. Air Force missileers initiated the launch from a Navy E-6B Mercury Airborne Command Post aircraft instead of the more usual ground facility, proving the functionality of the Airborne Launch Control System. “Team Vandenberg and our mission partners’ teamwork delivered another successful launch from America’s West Coast spaceport,” said Col. Brent McArthur, vice commander of Vandy’s 30th Space Wing, in a Nov. 14 wing release. The ICBM fitted with an inert reentry vehicle blasted off from the base’s Launch Facility 10 at 3:07 a.m. West Coast time. Air Force Global Strike Command personnel from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., and 625th Strategic Operations Squadron at Offutt supported the operational test under the supervision of Vandy’s 576th Flight Test Squadron.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.