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ICBM test contributes to continued deterrence

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher Ruano
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
The 90th Missile Wing conducted a Simulated Electronic Launch-Minuteman test here April 10-12. The SELM demonstrates the wing’s capability to provide unwavering nuclear deterrence for the nation. 

The 90th MW contributes to the nation’s strategic defense by sustaining and operating 150 Minuteman III ICBMs and the associated launch facilities. A SELM test validates the ICBM weapon system’s effectiveness in a safe and secure manner. 

“The Simulated Electronic Launch of a Minuteman III ICBM is a signal to the American people, our allies, and our adversaries that our ICBM capability is safe, secure, lethal and ready,” said Lt. Col. Deane Konowicz, 625th Strategic Operations Squadron commander. “It highlights the ground and airborne command and control elements of an electrically-isolated ICBM, demonstrating that our deployed ICBMs will respond to critical launch commands.”  

The intricate mission required extensive coordination between multiple operational and supporting agencies across the wing and Air Force Global Strike Command. 

During a SELM, missileers in the launch control center send commands to the Minuteman III ICBMs in the launch facility. They work with test facilitators who provide the commands and ensure the orders are executed accurately. 

“There are many moving parts involved in making a SELM test effective,” said 1st Lt. Kyle Martinez, 321st Missile Squadron missile combat crew commander. “During the test, we send series of preparation commands to the LF which ultimately lead to the launch command signaling the SELM was successful.”  

The SELM also validates the capability of the Airborne Launch Control System which serves as a backup command and control system, ensuring an adversary cannot carry out a decapitating first strike, said Col. Robert Billing, 595th Command and Control Group commander.

“The ALCS was developed in 1967 to counter a growing Soviet threat,” Billings said. “As the number of countries with nuclear capabilities has increased while the number of U.S. nuclear weapons has decreased, the ALCS remains just as important, if not more important, than ever, providing a survivable launch capability for our ICBMs.”

Long before the operators executed the launch codes, maintenance teams primed the sites for the test. Preparation began in January, said Master Sgt. Christopher Bradshaw, 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron systems NCO in charge of missile maintenance.

“It took almost two weeks to set up the LFs for the SELM. There was a lot of coordination with other agencies on base that needed to take place to get this mission done,” Bradshaw said. “We worked with security forces to ensure we had the proper security going out to do maintenance at the missile site. Wing safety and the quality assurance office also inspected our work, ensuring the SELM test was safe to be conducted.” 

The SELM preparation and execution requires an additional layer of physical security. The 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron provided all the security for the missile maintainer teams that performed the on-site SELM activities, said Master Sgt. Kimberly Rumph, 790th MSFS security support team NCO in charge.

“For SELM, we provide not only the LF security, but we posture ourselves for possible disruptions or security issues in the area,” Rumph said. “Without us, the mission couldn’t be pulled off securely.” 

The test demonstrates the missile wing’s immediate nuclear response capability which serves the nation and America’s allies. 

“Deterrence doesn’t work unless our adversaries deem our capabilities as credible,” said Lt. Col. Hayley James, 625th STOS director of operations. “Each test we conduct, whether it is a test launch of an ICBM from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., or the SELM, we are sending a message that the ICBM force is ready to respond 24/7/365.”