The Air Force is scheduled to conduct an operational test launch of a Minuteman III ICBM on Tuesday from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., announced Air Force Global Strike Command officials. The unarmed missile’s single re-entry vehicle is expected to travel more than 4,000 miles until it touches down in the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, they said on May 20. The launch window runs from 3:01 a.m. to 9:01 a.m. West Coast time, they said. “These tests provide us the opportunity to demonstrate the readiness of the ICBM force,” said Col. Richard Pagliuco, Vandy’s 576th Flight Test Squadron commander. “Every test provides valuable data regarding the accuracy and reliability of the weapon system,” he said. The Air Force had scheduled this launch for earlier in the year, but the Pentagon leadership postponed the mission, citing the desire not to inflame tensions at the time between the United States and North Korea.
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.