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91st Space Wing set to launch ... almost

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Senior Airman Edwin Acosta Jr., 91st Missile Maintenance Squadron, checks the oxygen levels in the confined space before allowing entry after the simulated electronic missile launch conducted at Mike 11 Nov. 1. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Laws)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Senior Airman Edwin Acosta Jr., 91st Missile Maintenance Squadron, checks the oxygen levels in the confined space before allowing entry after the simulated electronic missile launch conducted at Mike 11 Nov. 1. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Laws)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Airmen from the 91st Space Wing put their 99 percent alert rate to the test Wednesday during a simulated electronic missile launch. 

The simulated electronic launch tested the proper operation of the Minuteman III weapons system here Tuesday and Wednesday. 

"It [SELM] ensures the proper command and control over our missiles we have here
at Minot Air Force Base," said Lt. Col. David Lair, 91st Missile Maintenance Squadron commander and SELM test support manager. "It also ensures if we do need to launch those missiles, the commands will be properly transmitted and received." 

Keeping safety a priority, test evaluators and technicians took every precaution to
prepare the selected launch facilities and launch control centers for the SELM. 

"During a SELM, two launch control centers and six missiles are taken off alert, 91st Space Wing set to launch ... almost making them incapable of launching. At the launch control center, the launch control panel and launch enable panel are switched out with test codes," said Capt. Brandon Schrader, SELM test director based out of the 576th Flight Test Squadron, Vandenberg AFB, Ca. "Maintainers also physically isolate the two capsules from the rest of the squadron by disconnecting communication lines between the test launch facility and any other non-test launch facilities, creating a mini-SELM squadron. Once the SELM launch facilities are isolated and interfaced with the command and control software, they are ready for a simulated launch; 576th FLTS personnel use a test sequence document we've created to simulate a launch without actually launching the missile." 

According to Capt. Chad PFortmiller, 576th FLTS team member, the entire exercise began almost five months ago when the team had to select the LFs and LCCs, and prepare them for the other squadrons to take over those facilities' duties. 

"Part of our 19 weeks of preparing all this is to make sure the other units pick up the responsibilities of those six sorties [LFs]," said Captain PFortmiller. "Part of the process of picking up the sorties is trying to get sorties that haven't been tested before,
talking with the engineers to see what specific data they're interested in gathering, and coordinating with the wing to see if that melds with what they're doing out here." 

The SELM culminated Wednesday in the successful simulated launch. The LF enclosure door was even opened as it would have been had it been a real launch. The information gathered from the SELM will be used to evaluate
not only the operation of the Minuteman III but also the design of a decades old weapons system. 

"The test results will give us insight into the training of our people, the capabilities of
our maintainers and the design and engineering of the systems," said Col. Martin Whelan, 91st Space Wing commander. "We have a 99-percent alert capable rate with our missile systems, and, as we advertise that, we want to make sure that, if the command comes to engage our weapons system, they're ready to go." 

The end of the SELM does not mark the end of the effectiveness testing for the 91st SW
as they are currently being tested by the 20th Air Force's missile standardization evaluation team. The testing began Thursday.
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