Fifty Year Old US ICBM Farts and Aborts on Test Launch

“U.S. ICBM test aborted prior to launch” – Xinhua 10:53, May 06, 2021

I’m sorry, not really, in fact I’m quite amused.  And I cannot resist making the most out of this sorry affair.

So, in case you didn’t yet read the story, the US military on Wednesday (May 5), attempted to test launch an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).  The launch was aborted (presumably self-aborted – such launches would I expect be auto-controlled) and the fault is being investigated.

This test example would presumably be one of those missiles which have been sitting in underground silos since the 1970s as part of America’s nuclear defense force – it seeming reasonable to suggest that they would not now have ‘spare’ examples sitting around after 40-50 years just for testing purposes, although I could of course be wrong.  I’m just trying to get a grip on the circumstances here, since we are likely never to be told exactly what happened. 

These missiles are meant to be acting as a deterrence – one part of what is known as the nuclear triad (missiles, bombers and submarines) to restrain potential enemies from launching their own missiles in anger towards America, are they not?

So, did the thought occur to you as it did to me – what if the rest of these aging rockets also spluttered and failed to launch in a time of crisis or when some lunatic in the White House presses the Big Red Button, whether accidentally or for real?

What could have gone wrong?  Had a layer of dust built up on the surface of the floppy disk controlling the launch?  Did the last person to dust it re-insert it into the floppy disc drive upside down?  Was it a blank disc?

I’m being facetious of course, and why wouldn’t I?   The US may have been bluffing the entire world for the last 50 years, knowing, or not knowing, that these things would never work as intended.  And where does that leave the people of the United States?  Unprotected?  Well, never fear.  I don’t think anyone is going to take advantage of that, whether true or not.  The rest of us are not seeking to rule the world.

I added this later because, while I have made light of the story, it is a serious subject.  The following is a quote from the same story as told by AirForce Magazine…

Strategic Command boss Adm. Charles “Chas” A. Richard told lawmakers in April that there is “no operational margin” left in the ICBM leg of the triad and that the aging Minuteman III fleet is “at risk of losing credibility” in the eyes of potential adversaries.
“Nothing lasts forever,” Richard said. “You cannot indefinitely life-extend anything. I cannot deter with the leftovers of the Cold War forever. … I need a weapons system that will actually work and actually make it to the target.”

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