The US just test-fired a nuclear-capable ballistic missile -- here's why and what it looks like

US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ian DudleyAn unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 12:03 a.m., PDT, April 26, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Minuteman system has been in service for 60 years. Through continuous upgrades, including new production versions, improved targeting systems, and enhanced accuracy, today’s Minuteman system remains state-of-the art and is capable of meeting all modern challenges.

The US launched an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base on Wednesday.

Though nuclear tensions around the world have been running high, the launch was completely routine, and had been planned over a year in advance.

The US has dozens of ICBM silos all around the country as part of the nuclear triad, or three types of nuclear forces that guarantee the nation’s ability to strike back in the event of nuclear war.

Simply put, even if the entire world decided to attack the US simultaneously, there’s no way that every ground-based missile, nuclear bomber, and ballistic missile submarine could be destroyed at once. At least one leg of the triad would survive, meaning the US could strike back with devastating nuclear force.

The ICBM launched on Wednesday flew about 4,000 miles from Vandenberg to a test range in Hawaii in a matter of minutes.

While the US’s nuclear strategy has been long established, it still has to be tested. In the footage below, which shows a very similar launch in February, see how the US makes sure its nuclear weapons are accurate and reliable.


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