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SELM tests weapons systems reliability, capability

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jacob Pairsh, Airman 1st Class Daryl Knee
  • 320th Missile Squadron, 90th Space Wing Public Affairs
"Inserting keys ... check, missile enabled ... check, key turn on my mark ... 3-2-1, mark, good launch indications ... check, missile launcher door is open ... check." 

In a missile launch control center, these are terms spoken on only two occasions. Either the wing has been called upon to execute its mission or the wing is conducting a simulated electronic launch minuteman exercise. 

The 90th Space Wing conducted a SELM exercise Aug. 20-21 and these procedures were part of a script guiding the wing through a successful weapon system reliability test. Dubbed Giant Pace 07-1M, the SELM is part of Air Force Space Command's force development evaluation program. Although the other two parts of the FDE program (missile test launches at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and periodic weapon system exercises) provide performance data, the SELM is the most comprehensive test of a deployed intercontinental ballistic missile at an operational unit. 

The SELM exercise verifies that an ICBM in a silo will respond to remote launch commands from a launch control center and the airborne launch control center. It also validates that an ICBM will only respond in certain conditions. Overall, a SELM provides reliable feedback on one of the most powerful weapon systems ever fielded. 

"It takes a lot of planning," said Capt. Jacob Pairsh, project officer in charge. "We had over 165 personnel working together to ensure that this exercise would go smoothly." 

The 320th Missile Squadron, along with the 90th Maintenance Group and the 90th Security Forces Squadron, prepared more than three months in advance to perform the exercise. 

Because enable and launch commands were transmitted and ordinance at two launch facilities was expended, certain safety mandates had to be incorporated in the test. First, special enable and launch code data prepared by the 90th Operations Support Squadron code controllers was installed. Once completed, the LCCs and LFs were electrically isolated from the normal command and control of the 320th MS. Crucial tests were conducted to ensure that commands initiated in the test facilities could not be received at operational LFs. 

"It's important to isolate the commands sent out so they only reach the test launch facilities," Captain Pairsh said. Disconnected cables to the missile's ignition ordnance and safing pins prevented the missiles' first stage motors from firing. 

The ground test was held Aug. 21 when 320th MS missile crews successfully enabled and simulated the launching. 

"We use these types of exercises to ensure weapons systems reliability," Captain Pairsh said. "They are compared to a test drive. We're checking for any anomalies or improvements that can be made."