OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- A scheduled Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test was launched by two key turns initiated from the Airborne Launch Control System, or ALCS, on-board a Navy E-6B Mercury jet, April 26.
Using a single re-entry test vehicle, the unarmed missile from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, loaded with telemetry sensing equipment, traveled approximately 4,200 miles from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, before hitting its pre-determined target near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
The airborne flight test was the first for the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron since its realignment under Eighth Air Force.
“This test launch showcased a mission that touched almost every aspect of the 625th STOS,” said Maj. Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, Eighth Air Force commander. “From the targeting package on the missile, to the systems that simulate the flight of the projectile, to the launch track and range safety coordinates, to the training that prepared the team and the ALCS operators that provided the key turn, this truly was a demonstration of a small squadron providing a monumental impact on testing the reliability of our system.”
Ensuring the missile gets to its intended destination is the job of the 625th STOS targeting and systems flights. While the flight does not choose the target, the team does put targeting information into ones and zeros so that it can be translated by the ICBM. It requires an exacting attention to detail in both the writing of the code and inputting the latitudes and longitudes.
“We have multiple checks and balances to ensure that only the right data is sent to the missile,” said Capt. Justin Ahrens, 625th STOS Targeting Flight commander.
Eighth Air Force primarily deals with bomber aircraft, so for the 625th STOS, being part of a flying mission that can launch ICBMs is unique, especially for the engineering community. The 625th STOS test and analysis flight has one civilian and three lieutenant engineers in flying billets.
“We wanted to give our engineers the ability to see their work in an operational environment,” said Maj. Izzy Remo, 625th STOS Test and Analysis Flight commander and aircrew member who participated in the airborne launch.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our team,” said Lt. Col. Deane Konowicz, 625th STOS commander. “But this is much bigger than our squadron. While the footprint expands beyond the missile wings, the 576th Flight Test Squadron and the Department of Energy national labs, we could not do our ALCS mission without our Navy brethren of Task Force-124. They are the ones who ensure we get to a location on time and that we have the appropriate voice and ultra-high-frequency communication capability.”
ICBMs have a longstanding history under Eighth Air Force dating back to the 1970s when aligned with Strategic Air Command. The history includes 53 ground-and-airborne-initiated Minuteman ICBM test launches and 48 Titan II ICBM test launches, prior to this launch.
“The quiet but incredibly important work performed by the warriors of the ‘Mighty Eighth’ demonstrates the safety and reliability of the Minuteman III system and the ALCS, both of which are vital to the nuclear triad,” Bussiere said.
Since the first airborne launch of an ICBM in 1967, the ALCS has guaranteed that an adversary could not carry out a paralyzing first strike on our nation’s underground nuclear command and control centers.
The 625th STOS will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ALCS June 2 at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.