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Airmen on Wednesday launched an unarmed Minuteman III ICBM from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., over the Pacific Ocean in one of the periodic operational flight tests meant to ensure the performance and reliability of the Minuteman fleet. "The operational test launch mission is vital in ensuring a safe, secure, and effective ICBM force," said Col. Richard Pagliuco, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander, in Vandy's May 22 release. The missile lifted off at 6:27 a.m. local Pacific time, according to the release. The unarmed missile's single re-entry vehicle was expected to travel more than 4,000 miles until splashdown in the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Members of the 576th FTS worked with airmen of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot AFB, N.D., in executing this mission. The Defense Department and Energy Department "will use the data collected from the flight to ensure a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent," states the release.