A U.S. Air Force Minuteman III strategic missile lit up the early morning sky over Southern California May 22 as part of test launch of the long-range missile.
An Air Force spokesman from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., said the missile launch at 3:04 a.m. PDT flew a southwest course. Its simulated warhead hit a ocean target 5,250 miles away in an area 230 miles southwest of the Pacific island of Guam.
The flight test was about 1,000 miles longer in range than most tests and successfully hit its target, the spokesman said.
Pentagon officials said the Minuteman III test was a routine reliability test of the nuclear delivery system. But it also will be used as part of a plan to convert up to 50 of the 500 Minuteman IIIs from nuclear to conventionally-armed long-range missiles, as part of what the militar y calls deep strike, or the capability of conducting very rapid long-range conventional attacks against weapons of mass destruction or terrorist targets.
Bill Gertz covers the Pentagon. He can be reached at 202/636-3274 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.