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​An unarmed AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile is released from a B-52H Stratofortress over the Utah Test and Training Range during a Nuclear Weapons System Evaluation Program sortie Sept. 22, 2014. File photo by SSgt. Roidan Carlson.

The March 27 launch of an inert ICBM missile capped off three weeks of near-simultaneous operational testing of Air Force Global Strike Command’s Minuteman III fleet as well as its Air Launched Cruise Missile capabilities, according to a release. B-52s flying from Minot AFB, N.D., carried out three separate ALCM nuclear weapons system evaluation program test flights, in addition to the two ICBM test launches. B-52 crews from Minot closely studied procedures for how to execute a standoff ALCM launch, prior to taking off. Both the ICBM launches and the ALCM test flights followed a “cradle to grave” format, meaning the test incorporated all parts of a live mission personnel and crews could expect to perform in a real-world scenario, helping to validate the safety and reliability of the weapons prior to installing the test equipment, said SSgt. Aaron Ruan of the 705th Munitions Squadron at Minot. AFGSC ran near-simultaneous ICBM and standoff testing events last September, as well. Such testing is one way the command ensures both systems “meet reliability checks and operational standards,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Fortney, AFGSC’s director of operations.