Today marks 50 years since the first flight of 10 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles were put on alert at Minot Air Force Base.

Since that time, the nation's ICBM force has grown to 400 Minuteman III missiles located at F.E. Warren, Malmstrom and Minot.

"My hat’s off to the airmen across 20th Air Force who continue to operate, maintain, secure, and support Minuteman III after 50 years of service to the nation," said Maj. Gen. Mike Lutton, 20th Air Force Commander.

"This is a proud moment worth reflecting upon," he added.

Despite a projected service life of 10 years, Minuteman III has served uninterrupted, having undergone a series of life-extension programs to maintain viability.

It still stands on alert while development of its successor, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, continues.

"Until GBSD comes online fully, we must continue to take the actions necessary to ensure Minuteman III remains a viable deterrent for the nation," said Gen. Tim Ray, Air Force Global Strike Command Commander.

"We all owe a large debt of gratitude to the missileers, maintainers, security forces and countless others, who held the watch over the past generation," added Ray. "However, the Minuteman III is 50 years old. It’s time to modernize and bring on the GBSD."

F.E. Warren will be the first of the nation's three missile bases to have its aging Minuteman III ICBMs replaced with the GBSD. The Air Force plans to begin military construction activities at the base as early as 2023.

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