Arnold conducts Minuteman motor test

2/9/2007 - ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn.  -- Arnold Engineering Development Center workers here successfully completed the first of eight scheduled Minuteman motor tests this year in late January.

The initial test took place in the J-6 Large Rocket Motor Test Facility, where approximately $2.1 million worth of Minuteman testing will occur.

The heavy test load is significant in terms of acquiring reliable data and for gauging the reliability of the motors, especially since Minuteman test flights are limited.

"We only get to launch three times a year out of Vandenberg to test the actual viability in flight test so the more tests we have here at AEDC will better our predictability and will better the precision of our analysis," said Col. Robert Shofner, commander of the 526th Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

Colonel Shofner observed the first firing from the J-6 control room during his first visit to the center.

"It went like clockwork, which is what we hope for in ICBMs," he said. "It was very predictable, which is attributed to the way they do business here at AEDC."

Since active Minuteman missile boosters are presently being replaced, this test helps validate new production replacement program boosters in the field today, the colonel said.

"We need to know, as those come off the line, that they are reliable," Colonel Shofner said. "This test tells us that."

He added that the test also helps determine the "long-term health" of the booster and nozzle.

Exemplary of the Air Force Materiel Command mission to deliver war-winning expeditionary capabilities to the warfighter, the information allows the colonel to confidently tell the warfighting customer the weapon system will work if needed. In this case, he's sending that message to the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright. USSTRATCOM manages the nation's ballistic nuclear fleet.

"General Cartwright has to know that if the president says, 'let's use this weapon system,' that it's going to go," Colonel Shofner said.

AFMC's credibility is in its ability to predict the reliability of a weapon system in a reliable way, he said.

"Gen. (Kevin) Chilton, the commander of Air Force Space Command, said, 'Air Force Space Command is juggling a lot of balls,'" said Colonel Shofner. "He says one of those is crystal, and we can't drop it. It's nuclear deterrence.

"Obviously what we're seeing here at AEDC is part of that crystal ball."