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Air Force Begins Exploding Missiles At Utah Test And Training Range

U.S. Air Force
A Trident II rocket motor is destroyed at the Utah Test and Training Range.

The Air Force has begun its annual detonations of old rocket motors at the Utah Test and Training Range.

Starting this week and going through October the U.S. Air Force will be destroying the rocket motors and solid propellant of old ballistic missiles. Michelle Cottle is the Environmental Compliance Chief at Hill Air Force Base and oversees the detonation program. She says the Utah Test and Training Range is one of the only places where doing something like this is possible.

“The motors are stripped of any hardware so there’s not shrapnel associated with the detonation," she says. "And then we put enough explosive charge on it to get the propellant to detonate and then, boom.”

While the detonations are occasionally heard along the Wasatch Front, Cottle says they put a lot of effort into making sure the explosions go unnoticed.

“We use sound and weather monitoring before each of the detonations to predict the impact of sound that might be acrossed in populated areas and if we detect that there might be some sound, we will not detonate,” she says.

The Utah Test and Training Range has played a role in disposing the nation’s missile inventory for more than 20 years. Last year, the Air Force destroyed more than 40 rockets. 

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