Missile test launch rescheduled

When North Korean leader Kim Jong-un threatened nuclear strikes against the U.S. last month, the test launch of a missile from the Minot missile field scheduled for April was canceled.

Both Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Air Force Global Strike Command officials at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., confirmed the U.S. test launch was to be with a missile from Minot.

Hoeven, who spoke at the nuclear triad symposium held May 3 in Minot, said in response to the North Korean leader’s military action “the great men and women of Minot Air Force Base flew B-52s over to Guam and we sent B-2s to South Korea for exercises with the South Koreans.”

About 200 airmen from the Minot base’s 23rd Bomb Squadron with six B-52s and the 5th Maintenance Group were deployed to Andersen AFB in Guam in late March. Air Force officials said the deployment to Guam was for the ongoing military effort to provide a continuous bomber presence in the Western Pacific.

Hoeven said the cancellation of the missile test launch didn’t get as much attention but that the administration, in this case Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, canceled firing off that test of a Minot AFB Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.

“Why?” Hoeven asked, and also answered, “Because they were concerned that North Korea might misinterpret what we were doing.”

Hoeven said the U.S. nuclear arsenal deters military aggression around the world. He told the group at the symposium, “We’ve been at peace for many years we’ve been protected for many years because we have that capability and you can’t take it for granted.”

Minot AFB’s 91st Missile Wing is one of the Air Force’s three operational missile units. The 91st is responsible for 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles that are in underground facilities in the area.

Michele Tasista, a spokeswoman for Air Force Global Strike Command, said the next Minuteman III operational test launch with a missile from the Minot missile field is currently planned for May 21.

The test launches are made from Vandenberg AFB in California.

“The overall purpose of the Minuteman III Operational Test Launch program is to validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system,” Tasista said.

“On average, the Air Force conducts three operational test launches per year. Every test provides valuable information to Headquarters Air Force, Air Force Global Strike Command, U.S. Strategic Command and the Department of Energy to manage the platform’s life cycle,” she said.

“The operational test launch occurs within a narrow safety corridor, toward a predetermined area near the Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific, providing valuable data regarding the overall system,” Tasista added.