WASHINGTON: The US military on Wednesday destroyed one of its own nuclear-capable intercontinental missiles over the Pacific Ocean after it malfunctioned during a test, officials said.
The Minuteman III missile – which was unarmed for the test – was aborted five minutes after takeoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as a safety precaution after a “flight anomaly,” a military statement said.
The military had hoped to fire the missile some 4,200 miles to Kwajalein Atoll in a six-hour flight that would provide data for the US intercontinental ballistic program.
“Established parameters were exceeded and controllers sent destruct commands,” said Colonel Matthew Carroll, chief of safety for the 30th Space Wing.
The military said it would provide more details later on the problem.
“The air force ... is going to investigate this particular anomaly and see if they can determine what caused it,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said.
“These are extremely complex missions that they’re undertaking,” he said.
The missile – named for the “minutemen” in the US Revolutionary War who would quickly prepare for battle against British colonialists – is a mainstay of the Cold War nuclear weapons program.
The United States, while committing to reduce nuclear weapons in its START treaty with Russia, maintains 450 Minutemen III missiles in its active force at bases in the Plains states of Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.
The Marshall Islands, which gained independence from the United States in 1986, recently agreed to keep renting the missile testing range until 2066.
Kwajalein Atoll lies next to the archipelago’s Ebeye island, which has the unflattering nickname of the “Slum of the Pacific.”