The Air Force launched an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile early Wednesday, officials said, in a test flight that blasted open a 105-ton silo door for the first time in years. The Minuteman 3 missile’s dummy warhead traveled about 4,200 miles in about 20 minutes, hitting a target at the Kwajalein Atoll in the western chain of the Marshall Islands.
The launch at 12:14 a.m. from the Central Coast base marked the first time in years that the Air Force conducted a closed-door missile test. In previous launches, the 576th Flight Test Squadron performed the tests with the concrete door open to cut costs. The test was also the first flight using only global positioning satellites for navigation instead of radio transponders. The Air Force returned to closed-door testing because such launches provide more accurate data for tracking the missile, according Lt. Col. Stephen L. Davis, the unit’s commander.