LGM-30 Minuteman

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LGM-30 Minuteman
Type Intercontinental ballistic missile
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1962 (Minuteman-I)
1965 (Minuteman-II)
1970 (Minuteman-III)
Used byUnited States
Production history
Manufacturer Boeing
Unit cost$7,000,000
MassAbout 65,000 lb (≈29,450 kg) (Minuteman-I)

About 73,000 lb (≈33,100 kg) (Minuteman-II)

About 78,000 lb (≈35,300 kg) (Minuteman-III)
Length53 ft 8.0 in(≈16.4 m)(Minuteman-I/A)

55 ft 11 in(≈17.0 m)(Minuteman-I/B) 57 ft 7.0 in(≈17.5 m)(Minuteman-II)

59 ft 9.5 in(≈18.2 m)(Minuteman-III)


Diameter5 ft 6 in (≈1.7 m) (1st stage)
WarheadMMI and MMII: W56 (retired), MMIII: W62 (retired), W78 (active), or W87 (active)
Air-burst or contact (surface)

Engine Three-stage solid-fuel rocket engines; first stage: Thiokol TU-122 (M-55); second stage: Aerojet-General SR-19-AJ-1; third stage: Aerojet/Thiokol SR73-AJ/TC-1
About 6,300 miles (≈10,130 km) (Minuteman-I)

About 7,210 miles (≈11,600 km) (Minuteman-II)

About 8,083 miles (≈13,000 km) (Minuteman-III)
Flight altitudeAbout 700 miles (3,700,000 ft; 1,100 km)
SpeedAbout 17,647 mph (Mach 23, or≈28,400 km/h, or≈7.9 km/s) (terminal phase)
Inertial NS-50
AccuracyAbout 1.5 miles (≈2.4 km) (Minuteman-I)CEP

About 1.0 miles (≈1.6 km) (Minuteman-II)CEP

About 800 feet (≈243 m) (Minuteman-III)CEP
Missile silo

The LGM-30 Minuteman is a U.S. land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), in service with the Air Force Global Strike Command. As of 2018, the LGM-30G Minuteman III version [lower-alpha 1] is the only land-based ICBM in service in the United States.

Intercontinental ballistic missile Ballistic missile with a range of more than 5,500 kilometres

An intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is a guided ballistic missile with a minimum range of 5,500 kilometres (3,400 mi) primarily designed for nuclear weapons delivery. Similarly, conventional, chemical, and biological weapons can also be delivered with varying effectiveness, but have never been deployed on ICBMs. Most modern designs support multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), allowing a single missile to carry several warheads, each of which can strike a different target. The United States, Russia, China, India, and North Korea are the only countries that have operational ICBMs.

United States Air Force Air and space warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Air Force (USAF) is the aerial and space warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven American uniformed services. Initially formed as a part of the United States Army on 1 August 1907, the USAF was established as a separate branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on 18 September 1947 with the passing of the National Security Act of 1947. It is the youngest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the fourth in order of precedence. The USAF is the largest and most technologically advanced air force in the world. The Air Force articulates its core missions as air and space superiority, global integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control.

Air Force Global Strike Command Major command of the United States Air Force responsible for strategic and nuclear forces

Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) is a Major Command (MAJCOM) of the United States Air Force, headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. AFGSC provides combat-ready forces to conduct strategic nuclear deterrence and global strike operations in support of combatant commanders. It is subordinated to the USSTRATCOM.

Development of the Minuteman began in the mid-1950s, when basic research indicated that an ICBM might be powered by solid fuel rocket motors. Such a rocket might be able to stand ready to launch for long periods of time, in contrast to liquid-fueled rockets that required fueling before launch and so might be destroyed in a surprise attack. The missile was named for the Colonial Minutemen of the American Revolutionary War, who could be ready to fight on short notice. [1] [2]

Liquid-propellant rocket rocket engine that uses liquid propellants

A liquid-propellant rocket or liquid rocket utilizes a rocket engine that uses liquid propellants. Liquids are desirable because their reasonably high density allows the volume of the propellant tanks to be relatively low, and it is possible to use lightweight centrifugal turbopumps to pump the propellant from the tanks into the combustion chamber, which means that the propellants can be kept under low pressure. This permits the use of low-mass propellant tanks, resulting in a high mass ratio for the rocket.

American Revolutionary War War between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies, which won independence as the United States of America

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was an 18th-century war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies which declared independence in 1776 as the United States of America, and then formed a military alliance with France in 1778.

The Minuteman entered service in 1962 as a deterrence weapon that could hit Soviet cities with a second strike and countervalue counterattack if the U.S. was attacked. However, the development of the United States Navy's Polaris missile, which addressed the same role, allowed the Air Force to modify the Minuteman, boosting its accuracy enough to attack hardened military targets, including Soviet missile silos. The Minuteman-II entered service in 1965 with a host of upgrades to improve its accuracy and survivability in the face of an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system the Soviets were known to be developing. The Minuteman-III followed in 1970, using three smaller warheads instead of one large one, which made it difficult to counter because the ABMs would have to hit all three widely separated warheads to be effective. The Minuteman-III was the first multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) ICBM to be deployed. [3] Each missile can carry up to three thermonuclear weapons, and were initially armed with the W62 warhead with a yield of 170 kilotons.

Deterrence theory military strategy during the Cold War with regard to the use of nuclear weapons

Deterrence theory is the idea that an inferior force, by virtue of the destructive power of the force's weapons, could deter a more powerful adversary, provided that this force could be protected against destruction by a surprise attack. This doctrine gained increased prominence as a military strategy during the Cold War with regard to the use of nuclear weapons and is related to, but distinct from, the concept of Mutual assured destruction, which models the preventative nature of full-scale nuclear attack that would devastate both parties in a nuclear war. Deterrence is a strategy intended to dissuade an adversary from taking an action not yet started by means of threat of reprisal, or to prevent them from doing something that another state desires. The strategy is based on the psychological concept of the same name. A credible nuclear deterrent, Bernard Brodie wrote in 1959, must be always at the ready, yet never used.

Second strike

In nuclear strategy, a second-strike capability is a country's assured ability to respond to a nuclear attack with powerful nuclear retaliation against the attacker. To have such an ability is considered vital in nuclear deterrence, as otherwise the other side might attempt to try to win a nuclear war in one massive first strike against its opponent's own nuclear forces.

In military doctrine, countervalue is the targeting of an opponent's assets which are of value but not actually a military threat, such as cities and civilian populations. Counterforce is the targeting of an opponent's military forces and facilities. The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., records the first use of the word in 1660 and the first use in the modern sense in 1965, where it is described as a "euphemism for attacking cities".

Peaking at 1,000 missiles in the 1970s, the current U.S. force consists of 400 Minuteman-III missiles as of September 2017, [4] deployed in missile silos around Malmstrom AFB, Montana; Minot AFB, North Dakota; and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. [5] The Air Force plans to keep the missile in service until at least 2030. [6] [7] It is one component of the U.S. nuclear triad—the other two parts of the triad being the Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and nuclear weapons carried by long-range strategic bombers.

Malmstrom Air Force Base United States Air Force base

Malmstrom Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base and census-designated place (CDP) in Cascade County, Montana, United States, adjacent to the city of Great Falls. It was named in honor of World War II POW Colonel Einar Axel Malmstrom. It is the home of the 341st Missile Wing of the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). As a census-designated place, it had a population of 3,472 at the 2010 census.

Montana U.S. state in the United States

Montana is a state in the Northwestern United States. Montana has several nicknames, although none are official, including "Big Sky Country" and "The Treasure State", and slogans that include "Land of the Shining Mountains" and more recently "The Last Best Place".

Minot Air Force Base military airbase in North Dakota, United States

Minot Air Force Base is a U.S. Air Force installation in Ward County, North Dakota, 13 miles (20 km) north of the city of Minot via U.S. 83. In the 2010 census, the base was counted as a CDP with a total population of 5,521, down from 7,599 in 2000. Minot AFB is the home of two major wings: the 5th Bomb Wing and 91st Missile Wing, both of the Global Strike Command (AFGSC).


Minuteman-I missile Minuteman I.jpg
Minuteman-I missile

Edward Hall and solid fuels

Minuteman owes its existence largely to the efforts of Air Force Colonel Edward N. Hall. In 1956, Hall was put in charge of the solid-fuel-propulsion division of General Schriever's Western Development Division, originally created to lead development of the Atlas and Titan ICBMs. Solid fuels were already commonly used in short-range rockets. Hall's superiors were interested in short- and medium-range missiles with solids, especially for use in Europe where the fast reaction time was an advantage for weapons that might be attacked by Soviet aircraft. But Hall was convinced that they could be used for a true ICBM with 5,500 nautical miles (10,200 km; 6,300 mi) range. [8]

Edward N. Hall American aerospace engineer

Edward Nathanial Hall was a leading missile development engineer working for the US and its allies in World War II and the late 20th century.

Bernard Adolph Schriever United States Air Force general

Bernard Adolph Schriever, also known as Bennie Schriever, was a United States Air Force (USAF) general who played a major role in the USAF programs for space and ballistic missile research.

The SM-65 Atlas was the first operational intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) developed by the United States and the first member of the Atlas rocket family. It was built for the U.S. Air Force by the Convair Division of General Dynamics at an assembly plant located in Kearny Mesa. Atlas became operational as an ICBM in October 1959 and was quickly obsoleted by new development, being retired as a missile by 1965. However, Atlas-derived launch vehicles have a long history as space launchers.

To achieve the required energy, that year Hall began funding research at Boeing and Thiokol into the use of ammonium perchlorate composite propellant. Adapting a concept developed in the UK, they cast the fuel into large cylinders with a star-shaped hole running along the inner axis. This allowed the fuel to burn along the entire length of the cylinder, rather than just the end as in earlier designs. The increased burn rate meant increased thrust. This also meant the heat was spread across the entire motor, instead of the end, and because it burned from the inside out it did not reach the wall of the missile fuselage until the fuel was finished burning. In comparison, older designs burned primarily from one end to the other, meaning that at any instant one small section of the fuselage was being subjected to extreme loads and temperatures. [9]

Boeing Aerospace and defense manufacturer in the United States

The Boeing Company is an American multinational corporation that designs, manufactures, and sells airplanes, rotorcraft, rockets, satellites, telecommunications equipment, and missiles worldwide. The company also provides leasing and product support services. Boeing is among the largest global aerospace manufacturers; it is the fifth-largest defense contractor in the world based on 2017 revenue, and is the largest exporter in the United States by dollar value. Boeing stock is included in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Boeing is incorporated in Delaware.

Thiokol was an American corporation concerned initially with rubber and related chemicals, and later with rocket and missile propulsion systems. Its name is a portmanteau of the Greek words for sulfur and glue, an allusion to the company's initial product, Thiokol polymer.

Ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP) is a modern solid-propellant rocket used in rocket vehicles. It differs from many traditional solid rocket propellants such as black powder or zinc-sulfur, not only in chemical composition and overall performance, but also by the nature of how it is processed. APCP is cast into shape, as opposed to powder pressing as with black powder. This provides manufacturing regularity and repeatability, which are necessary requirements for use in the aerospace industry.

Guidance of an ICBM is based not only on the direction the missile is traveling but the precise instant that thrust is cut off. Too much thrust and the warhead will overshoot its target, too little and it will fall short. Solids are normally very hard to predict in terms of burning time and their instantaneous thrust during the burn, which made them questionable for the sort of accuracy required to hit a target at intercontinental range. This appeared at first to be an insurmountable problem, but in the end, was solved in an almost trivial fashion. A series of ports were added inside the rocket nozzle that were opened when the guidance systems called for engine cut-off. The reduction in pressure was so abrupt that the last burning fuel ejected itself and the flame was extinguished. [9]

The first to use these developments was the US Navy. They had been involved in a joint program with the US Army to develop the liquid-fueled Jupiter missile, but had always been skeptical of the system. They felt that liquid fuels were too dangerous to use onboard ships, especially submarines. Rapid success in the solids development program, combined with Edward Teller's promise of much lighter nuclear warheads during Project Nobska, led the Navy to abandon Jupiter and begin development of their own solid fuel missile. Aerojet's work with Hall was adapted for their Polaris missile starting in December 1956. [10]

Missile farm concept

The US Air Force saw no pressing need for a solid fuel ICBM. SM-65 Atlas and SM-68 Titan ICBMs were progressing, and "storable" liquids were being developed that would allow missiles to be left in a ready-to-shoot form for extended periods. Hall saw solid fuels not only as a way to improve launch times or safety, but part of a radical plan to greatly reduce the cost of ICBMs so that thousands could be built. He was aware that new computerized assembly lines would allow continual production, and that similar equipment would allow a small team to oversee operations for dozens or hundreds of missiles. A solid fuel design would be simpler to build, and easier to maintain. [11]

Hall's ultimate plan was to build a number of integrated missiles "farms" that included factories, missile silos, transport and recycling. Each farm would support between 1,000 and 1,500 missiles being produced in a continuous low rate cycle. Systems in a missile would detect failures, at which point it would be removed and recycled, while a newly built missile would take its place. [11] The missile design was based purely on lowest possible cost, reducing its size and complexity because "the basis of the weapon's merit was its low cost per completed mission; all other factors – accuracy, vulnerability, and reliability – were secondary." [12]

Hall's plan did not go unopposed, especially by the more established names in the ICBM field. Ramo-Wooldridge pressed for a system with higher accuracy, but Hall countered that the missile's role was to attack Soviet cities, and that "a force which provides numerical superiority over the enemy will provide a much stronger deterrent than a numerically inferior force of greater accuracy." [12] Hall was known for his "friction with others" and in 1958 Schriever removed him from the Minuteman project and sent him to the UK to oversee deployment of the Thor IRBM. [8] On his return to the US in 1959, Hall retired from the Air Force, but received his second Legion of Merit in 1960 for his work on solid fuels. [9]

Although he was removed from the Minuteman project, Hall's work on cost reduction had already produced a new design of 71 inches (1.8 m) diameter, much smaller than the Atlas and Titan at 120 inches (3.0 m), which meant smaller and cheaper silos. Hall's goal of dramatic cost reduction was a success, although many of the other concepts of his missile farm were abandoned. [12]

Guidance system

Autonetics D-17 guidance computer from a Minuteman-I missile. Autonetics D-17.JPG
Autonetics D-17 guidance computer from a Minuteman-I missile.

Previous long-range missiles used liquid fuels that could only be loaded just prior to firing. The loading process took from 30 to 60 minutes in typical designs. Although lengthy, this was not considered to be a problem at the time, because it took about the same amount of time to spin up the inertial guidance system, set the initial position, and program in the target coordinates. [13]

Minuteman was designed from the outset to be launched in minutes. While solid fuel eliminated the fueling delays, the delays in starting and aligning the guidance system remained. For quick launch, the guidance system would have to be kept running and aligned at all times, which was a serious problem for the mechanical systems, especially the gyroscopes which used ball bearings. [14]

Autonetics had an experimental design using air bearings that they claimed had been running continually from 1952 to 1957. [14] Autonetics further advanced the state of the art by building the platform in the form of a ball which could rotate in two directions. Conventional solutions used a shaft with ball bearings at either end that allowed it to rotate around a single axis only. Autonetics design meant that only two gyros would be needed for the inertial platform, instead of the typical three. [15] [lower-alpha 2]

The last major advance was to use a general purpose digital computer in place of the analog or custom designed digital computers. Previous missile designs normally used two single-purpose computers; one ran the autopilot that kept the missile flying along a programmed course, and the second compared the information from the inertial platform to the target coordinates and sent any needed corrections to the autopilot. To reduce the total number of parts used in Minuteman, a single faster computer was used, running separate routines for these functions. [16]

Since the guidance computer would be inactive while the missile sat in the silo, the same computer was also used to run a program that monitored the various sensors and test equipment. With older designs this had been handled by external systems, requiring miles of extra wiring and many connectors. In order to store multiple programs, the computer, the D-17B, was built in the form of a drum machine but used a hard disk in place of the drum. [16]

Building a computer with the required performance, size and weight demanded the use of transistors, which were at that time very expensive and not very reliable. Earlier efforts to use transistorized computers for guidance, BINAC and the system on the SM-64 Navaho, had failed and were abandoned. The Air Force and Autonetics spent millions on a program to improve transistor and component reliability 100 times, leading to the "Minuteman high-rel parts" specifications. The techniques developed during this program were equally useful for improving all transistor construction, and greatly reduced the failure rate of transistor production lines in general. This improved yield, which had the effect of greatly lowering production costs, and had enormous spin-off effects in the electronics industry. [17]

Using a general purpose computer also had long-lasting effects on the Minuteman program and the US's nuclear stance in general. With Minuteman, the targeting could be easily changed by loading new trajectory information into the computer's hard drive, a task that could be completed in a few hours. Earlier ICBMs' custom wired computers, on the other hand, could only have attacked a single target, whose precise trajectory information was hard-coded directly in the system's logic. [13]

Missile gap

In 1957 a series of intelligence reports suggested the Soviets were far ahead in the missile race and would be able to overwhelm the US by the early 1960s. If the Soviets were building missiles in the numbers being predicted by the CIA and others within the defense establishment, by as early as 1961 they would have enough to attack all SAC and ICBM bases in the US in a single first strike. It was later demonstrated that this "missile gap" was just as fictional as the "bomber gap" of a few years earlier, but through the late 1950s, it was a serious concern.

The Air Force responded by beginning research into survivable strategic missiles, starting the WS-199 program. Initially, this focused on air-launched ballistic missiles, which would be carried aboard aircraft flying far from the Soviet Union, and thus impossible to attack by either ICBM, because they were moving, or long-range interceptor aircraft, because they were too far away. In the shorter term, looking to rapidly increase the number of missiles in its force, Minuteman was given crash development status starting in September 1958. Advanced surveying of the potential silo sites had already begun in late 1957. [18]

Adding to their concerns was a Soviet anti-ballistic missile system which was known to be under development at Sary Shagan. WS-199 was expanded to develop a maneuvering reentry vehicle (MARV), which greatly complicated the problem of shooting down a warhead. Two designs were tested in 1957, Alpha Draco and the Boost Glide Reentry Vehicle. These used long and skinny arrow-like shapes that provided aerodynamic lift in the high atmosphere, and could be fitted to existing missiles like Minuteman. [18]

The shape of these reentry vehicles required more room on the front of the missile than a traditional reentry vehicle design. To allow for this future expansion, the Minuteman silos were revised to be built 13 feet (4.0 m) deeper. Although Minuteman would not deploy a boost-glide warhead, the extra space proved invaluable in the future, as it allowed the missile to be extended and carry more fuel and payload. [18]


The Polaris SLBM could ostensibly fill the role of the Minuteman, and was perceived as significantly less vulnerable to attack. Polaris missile launch from HMS Revenge (S27) 1983.JPEG
The Polaris SLBM could ostensibly fill the role of the Minuteman, and was perceived as significantly less vulnerable to attack.

During Minuteman's early development, the Air Force maintained the policy that the manned strategic bomber was the primary weapon of nuclear war. Blind bombing accuracy on the order of 1,500 feet (0.46 km) was expected, and the weapons were sized to ensure even the hardest targets would be destroyed as long as the weapon fell within this range. The USAF had enough bombers to attack every military and industrial target in the USSR and was confident that its bombers would survive in sufficient numbers that such a strike would utterly destroy the country. [19]

Soviet ICBMs upset this equation to a degree. Their accuracy was known to be low, on the order of 4 nautical miles (7.4 km; 4.6 mi), but they carried large warheads that would be useful against Strategic Air Command's bombers, which parked in the open. Since there was no system to detect the ICBMs being launched, the possibility was raised that the Soviets could launch a sneak attack with a few dozen missiles that would take out a significant portion of SAC's bomber fleet. [19]

In this environment, the Air Force saw their own ICBMs not as a primary weapon of war, but as a way to ensure that the Soviets would not risk a sneak attack. ICBMs, especially newer models that were housed in silos, could be expected to survive an attack by a single Soviet missile. In any conceivable scenario where both sides had similar numbers of ICBMs, the US forces would survive a sneak attack in sufficient numbers to ensure the destruction of all major Soviet cities in return. The Soviets would not risk an attack under these conditions. [19]

Considering this countervalue attack concept, strategic planners calculated that an attack of "400 equivalent megatons" aimed at the largest Soviet cities would promptly kill 30% of their population and destroy 50% of their industry. Larger attacks raised these numbers only slightly, as all of the larger targets would already have been hit. This suggested that there was a "finite deterrent" level around 400 megatons that would be enough to prevent a Soviet attack no matter how many missiles they had of their own. All that had to be ensured was that the US missiles survived, which seemed likely given the low accuracy of the Soviet weapons. [20] Reversing the problem, the addition of ICBMs to the US Air Force's arsenal did not eliminate the need, or desire, to attack Soviet military targets, and the Air Force maintained that bombers were the only suitable platform in that role. [20]

This presented a serious problem for the Air Force. While still pressing for development of newer bombers, like the supersonic B-70, it appeared the counter value role was served by the Navy's UGM-27 Polaris. Polaris had enough range that the submarines could roam open areas of the ocean, and would be essentially invulnerable to attack no matter how many missiles the Soviets had, or how accurate they were. Based on the same 400 equivalent megatons calculation, they set about building a fleet of 41 submarines carrying 16 missiles each, giving the Navy a finite deterrent that was unassailable. [21]

A February 1960 memo by RAND, entitled "The Puzzle of Polaris", was passed around among high-ranking Air Force officials. It suggested that Polaris negated any need for Air Force ICBMs if they were also being aimed at Soviet cities. If the role of the missile was to present an unassailable threat to the Soviet population, Polaris was a far better solution than Minuteman. The document had long-lasting effects on the future of the Minuteman program, which, by 1961, was firmly evolving towards a counterforce capability. [21]


Minuteman's final tests coincided with John F. Kennedy entering the White House. His new Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, was tasked with producing the world's best defense while limiting spending. McNamara began to apply cost/benefit analysis, and Minuteman's low production cost made its selection a foregone conclusion. Atlas and Titan were soon scrapped, and the storable liquid fueled Titan II deployment was severely curtailed. [12] McNamara also cancelled the B-70 bomber project. [22]

Minuteman's low cost had spin-off effects on non-ICBM programs. The Army's Nike Zeus, an interceptor missile capable of shooting down Soviet warheads, provided another way to prevent a sneak attack. This had initially been proposed as a way to defend the SAC bomber fleet. The Army argued that upgraded Soviet missiles might be able to attack US missiles in their silos, and Zeus would be able to blunt such an attack. Zeus was expensive and the Air Force said it was more cost-effective to build another Minuteman missile. Given the large size and complexity of the Soviet liquid-fueled missiles, an ICBM building race was one the Soviets could not afford. Zeus was canceled in 1963. [23]


Minuteman's selection as the primary Air Force ICBM was initially based on the same "second strike" logic as their earlier missiles: that the weapon was primarily one designed to survive any potential Soviet attack and ensure they would be hit in return. But Minuteman had a combination of features that led to its rapid evolution into the US's primary weapon of nuclear war.

Chief among these qualities was its digital computer. This could be updated in the field with new targets and better information about the flight paths with relative ease, gaining accuracy for little cost. One of the unavoidable effects on the warhead's trajectory was the mass of the Earth, which is not even, and contains many mass concentrations that pull on the warhead. Through the 1960s, the Defense Mapping Agency (now part of National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency) mapped these with increasing accuracy, feeding that information back into the Minuteman fleet. The Minuteman was deployed with a circular error probable (CEP) of about 1.1 nautical miles (2.0 km; 1.3 mi), but this had improved to about 0.6 nautical miles (1.1 km; 0.69 mi) by 1965. [24] This was accomplished without any mechanical changes to the missile or its navigation system. [13]

At those levels, the ICBM begins to approach the manned bomber in terms of accuracy; a small upgrade, roughly doubling the accuracy of the INS, would give it the same 1,500 feet (460 m) CEP as the manned bomber. Autonetics began such development even before the original Minuteman entered fleet service, and the Minuteman-II had a CEP of 0.26 nautical miles (0.48 km; 0.30 mi). Additionally, the computers were upgraded with more memory, allowing them to store information for eight targets, which the missile crews could select among almost instantly, greatly increasing their flexibility. [8] From that point, Minuteman became the US's primary deterrent weapon, until its performance was matched by the Navy's Trident missile of the 1980s. [25]

Questions about the need for the manned bomber were quickly raised. The Air Force began to offer a number of reasons why the bomber offered value, in spite of costing more money to buy and being much more expensive to operate and maintain. Newer bombers with better survivability, like the B-70, cost many times more than the Minuteman, and, in spite of great efforts through the 1960s, became increasingly vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles. The B-1 of the early 1970s eventually emerged with a price tag around $200 million (equivalent to $500 million in 2018) [26] while the Minuteman-IIIs built during the 1970s cost only $7 million ($20 million in 2018).[ citation needed ]

The Air Force countered that having a variety of platforms complicated the defense; if the Soviets built an effective anti-ballistic missile system of some sort, the ICBM and SLBM fleet might be rendered useless, while the bombers would remain. This became the nuclear triad concept, which survives into the present. Although this argument was successful, the number of manned bombers has been repeatedly cut and the deterrent role increasingly passed to missiles. [27]

Minuteman-I (LGM-30A/B or SM-80/HSM-80A)

See also W56 Warhead


The LGM-30A Minuteman-I was first test-fired on 1 February 1961, [28] [29] and entered into the Strategic Air Command's arsenal in 1962. After the first batch of Minuteman I's were fully developed and ready for stationing, the US Air Force had originally decided to put the missiles at the Vandenberg AFB in California, but before the missiles were set to officially be moved there it was discovered that this first set of Minuteman missiles had defective boosters which limited their range from their initial 6,300 miles to 4,300 miles. This defect would cause the missiles to fall short of their targets if launched over the North Pole as planned. The decision was made to station the missiles at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana [28] instead. These changes would allow the missiles, even with their defective boosters, to reach their intended targets in the case of a launch. [30] .

The "improved" LGM-30BMinuteman-I became operational at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, and Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri in 1963 and 1964. All 800 Minuteman-I missiles were delivered by June 1965. Each of the bases had 150 missiles emplaced. F.E. Warren AFB had 200 of the Minuteman-IB missiles. Malmstrom AFB had 150 of the Minuteman-I and about five years later added 50 of the Minuteman-II similar to those installed at Grand Forks AFB, ND.


The Minuteman I's length varied based on which variation one was to look at. The Minuteman I/A had a length of about 53 ft 8.0 in(≈16.4 m) and the Minuteman I/B had an approximate length of 55 ft 11 in (≈17.0 m). The Minuteman I weighed roughly 65,000 lb (≈29,450 kg), had an operational range of 6,300 miles (≈10,130 km) with an accuracy of about 1.5 miles (≈2.4 km). [30] [31] [32]


The Minuteman-I Autonetics D-17 flight computer used a rotating air bearing magnetic disk holding 2,560 "cold-stored" words in 20 tracks (write heads disabled after program fill) of 24 bits each and one alterable track of 128 words. The time for a D-17 disk revolution was 10 ms. The D-17 also used a number of short loops for faster access of intermediate results storage. The D-17 computational minor cycle was three disk revolutions or 30 ms. During that time all recurring computations were performed. For ground operations, the inertial platform was aligned and gyro correction rates updated. During a flight, filtered command outputs were sent by each minor cycle to the engine nozzles. Unlike modern computers, which use descendants of that technology for secondary storage on hard disk, the disk was the active computer memory. The disk storage was considered hardened to radiation from nearby nuclear explosions, making it an ideal storage medium. To improve computational speed, the D-17 borrowed an instruction look-ahead feature from the Autonetics-built Field Artillery Data Computer (M18 FADAC) that permitted simple instruction execution every word time.

The D-37C guidance and control computers were used in Minuteman-II missiles and contained components from Texas Instruments. The Minuteman-III missiles used D-37D computers and completed the 1,000 missile deployment of this system. The initial cost of these computers ranged from about $139,000 (D-37C) to $250,000 (D-17B).

Minuteman-II (LGM-30F)

See also W56 warhead
The guidance system of the Minuteman-II was much smaller due to the use of integrated circuits. The inertial platform is in the top bay. Minuteman guidance computer (1).jpg
The guidance system of the Minuteman-II was much smaller due to the use of integrated circuits. The inertial platform is in the top bay.

The LGM-30F Minuteman-II was an improved version of the Minuteman-I missile. Development on the Minuteman-II began in 1962 as the Minuteman-I entered the Strategic Air Command's nuclear force. Minuteman-II production and deployment began in 1965 and completed in 1967. It had an increased range, greater throw weight and guidance system with better azimuthal coverage, providing military planners with better accuracy and a wider range of targets. Some missiles also carried penetration aids, allowing the higher probability of kill against Moscow's anti-ballistic missile system. The payload consisted of a single Mk-11C reentry vehicle containing a W56 nuclear warhead with a yield of 1.2 megatons of TNT (5 PJ).


The Minuteman-II had a length of 57 ft 7.0 in (≈17.5 m), weighed roughly 73,000 lb (≈33,100 kg), had an operational range of 7,210 miles (≈11,600 km) with an accuracy of about 1.0 miles (≈1.6 km). [30] [31]

The major new features provided by Minuteman-II were:

  • An improved first-stage motor to increase reliability.
  • A novel, single, fixed nozzle with liquid injection thrust vector control on a larger second-stage motor to increase missile range. Additional motor improvements to increase reliability.
  • An improved guidance system (D-37), incorporating microchips and miniaturized discrete electronic parts. Minuteman-II was the first program to make a major commitment to these new devices. Their use made possible multiple target selection, greater accuracy and reliability, a reduction in the overall size and weight of the guidance system, and an increase in the survivability of the guidance system in a nuclear environment. The guidance system contained 2,000 microchips made by Texas Instruments.
  • A penetration aids system to camouflage the warhead during its reentry into an enemy environment. In addition, the Mk-11C reentry vehicle incorporated stealth features to reduce its radar signature and make it more difficult to distinguish from decoys. The Mk-11C was no longer made of titanium for this and other reasons. [33]
  • A larger warhead in the reentry vehicle to increase kill probability.

System modernization was concentrated on launch facilities and command and control facilities. This provided decreased reaction time and increased survivability when under nuclear attack. Final changes to the system were performed to increase compatibility with the expected LGM-118A Peacekeeper. These newer missiles were later deployed into modified Minuteman silos.

The Minuteman-II program was the first mass-produced system to use a computer constructed from integrated circuits (the Autonetics D-37C). The Minuteman-II integrated circuits were diode–transistor logic and diode logic made by Texas Instruments. The other major customer of early integrated circuits was the Apollo Guidance Computer, which had similar weight and ruggedness constraints. The Apollo integrated circuits were resistor–transistor logic made by Fairchild Semiconductor. The Minuteman-II flight computer continued to use rotating magnetic disks for primary storage. The Minuteman-II included diodes by Microsemiconductor. [34]

Minuteman-III (LGM-30G)

Minuteman-III Minuteman-3 Museum.jpg
Side view of Minuteman-III ICBM Minuteman III diagram.png
Side view of Minuteman-III ICBM
Airmen work on a Minuteman-III's multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) system. Current missiles carry a single warhead. LGM-30G Minuteman III MIRV.jpg
Airmen work on a Minuteman-III's multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) system. Current missiles carry a single warhead.

The LGM-30G Minuteman-III program started in 1966 and included several improvements over the previous versions. It was first deployed in 1970. Most modifications related to the final stage and reentry system (RS). The final (third) stage was improved with a new fluid-injected motor, giving finer control than the previous four-nozzle system. Performance improvements realized in Minuteman-III include increased flexibility in reentry vehicle (RV) and penetration aids deployment, increased survivability after a nuclear attack, and increased payload capacity. The missile retains a gimballed inertial navigation system.

Minuteman-III originally contained the following distinguishing features:

Minuteman-III MIRV launch sequence:
1. The missile launches out of its silo by firing its 1st-stage boost motor (A).
2. About 60 seconds after launch, the 1st stage drops off and the 2nd-stage motor (B) ignites. The missile shroud (E) is ejected.
3. About 120 seconds after launch, the 3rd-stage motor (C) ignites and separates from the 2nd stage.
4. About 180 seconds after launch, 3rd-stage thrust terminates and the Post-Boost Vehicle (D) separates from the rocket.
5. The Post-Boost Vehicle maneuvers itself and prepares for re-entry vehicle (RV) deployment.
6. The RVs, as well as decoys and chaff, are deployed during back away.
7. The RVs and chaff re-enter the atmosphere at high speeds and are armed in flight.
8. The nuclear warheads initiate, either as air bursts or ground bursts. Minuteman III MIRV path.svg
Minuteman-III MIRV launch sequence:
1. The missile launches out of its silo by firing its 1st-stage boost motor (A).
2. About 60 seconds after launch, the 1st stage drops off and the 2nd-stage motor (B) ignites. The missile shroud (E) is ejected.
3. About 120 seconds after launch, the 3rd-stage motor (C) ignites and separates from the 2nd stage.
4. About 180 seconds after launch, 3rd-stage thrust terminates and the Post-Boost Vehicle (D) separates from the rocket.
5. The Post-Boost Vehicle maneuvers itself and prepares for re-entry vehicle (RV) deployment.
6. The RVs, as well as decoys and chaff, are deployed during back away.
7. The RVs and chaff re-enter the atmosphere at high speeds and are armed in flight.
8. The nuclear warheads initiate, either as air bursts or ground bursts.

The existing Minuteman-III missiles have been further improved over the decades in service, with more than $7 billion spent in the last decade to upgrade the 450 missiles. [37]


The Minuteman-III had a length of 59 ft 9.5 in (≈18.2 m), weighed roughly 78,000 lb (≈35,300 kg), had an operational range of 8,083 miles (≈13,000 km) with an accuracy of about 800 feet (≈243 m). [30] [31]

W78 warhead

In December 1979 the higher-yield W78 warhead began replacing a number of the W62s deployed on the Minuteman-IIIs. [38] These were delivered in the Mark 12A reentry vehicle. A small, unknown number of the previous Mark 12 RVs were retained operationally, however, to maintain a capability to attack more-distant targets in the south-central Asian republics of the USSR (the Mark 12 RV weighed slightly less than the Mark 12A).

Guidance Replacement Program (GRP)

The Guidance Replacement Program (GRP) replaces the NS20A Missile Guidance Set with the NS50A Missile Guidance Set. The newer system extends the service life of the Minuteman missile beyond the year 2030 by replacing aging parts and assemblies with current, high-reliability technology while maintaining the current accuracy performance. The replacement program was completed 25 February 2008. [6]

Propulsion Replacement Program (PRP)

Beginning in 1998 and continuing through 2009, [39] the Propulsion Replacement Program extends the life and maintains the performance by replacing the old solid propellant boosters (downstages).

Single Reentry Vehicle (SRV)

The Single Reentry Vehicle (SRV) modification enabled the United States ICBM force to abide by the now-vacated START II treaty requirements by reconfiguring Minuteman-III missiles from three reentry vehicles down to one. Though it was eventually ratified by both parties, START II never entered into force and was essentially superseded by follow-on agreements such as SORT and New START, which do not limit MIRV capability. Minuteman III remains fitted with a single warhead due to the warhead limitations in New START.

Safety Enhanced Reentry Vehicle (SERV)

Beginning in 2005, Mk-21/W87 RVs from the deactivated Peacekeeper missile will be placed on the Minuteman-III force under the Safety Enhanced Reentry Vehicle (SERV) program. The older W78 does not have many of the safety features of the newer W87, such as insensitive high explosive, as well as more advanced safety devices. In addition to implementing these safety features in at least a portion of the future Minuteman-III force, the decision to transfer W87s onto the missile is based on two features that will improve the targeting capabilities of the weapon: more fuzing options which will allow for greater targeting flexibility and the most accurate reentry vehicle available which provides a greater probability of damage to the designated targets.

Airborne Launch Control System

The Airborne Launch Control System (ALCS) is an integral part of the Minuteman ICBM command and control system and provides a survivable launch capability for the Minuteman ICBM force if ground-based launch control centers (LCCs) are destroyed.

When the Minuteman ICBM was first placed on alert, the Soviet Union did not have the number of weapons, accuracy, nor significant nuclear yield to completely destroy the Minuteman ICBM force during an attack. However, starting in the mid-1960s, the Soviets began to gain parity with the US and now had the potential capability to target and successfully attack the Minuteman force with an increased number of ICBMs that had greater yields and accuracy than were previously available. Studying the problem, even more, SAC realized that in order to prevent the US from launching all 1000 Minuteman ICBMs, the Soviets did not have to target all 1000 Minuteman missile silos. The Soviets only needed to launch a disarming decapitation strike against the 100 Minuteman LCCs – the command and control sites – in order to prevent the launch of all Minuteman ICBMs. Even though the Minuteman ICBMs would have been left unscathed in their missile silos following an LCC decapitation strike, the Minuteman missiles could not be launched without a command and control capability. In other words, the Soviets only needed 100 warheads to fully eliminate command and control of the Minuteman ICBMs. Even if the Soviets chose to expend two to three warheads per LCC for assured damage expectancy, the Soviets would only have had to expend up to 300 warheads to disable the Minuteman ICBM force – far less than the total number of Minuteman silos. The Soviets could have then used the remaining warheads to strike other targets they chose. [40]

Airborne Missileer operating Common ALCS on board an EC-135A ALCC ALCS 1.png
Airborne Missileer operating Common ALCS on board an EC-135A ALCC

Faced with only a few Minuteman LCC targets, the Soviets could have concluded that the odds of being successful in a Minuteman LCC decapitation strike were higher with less risk than it would have been having to face the almost insurmountable task of successfully attacking and destroying 1000 Minuteman silos and 100 Minuteman LCCs to ensure Minuteman was disabled. This theory motivated SAC to design a survivable means to launch Minuteman, even if all the ground-based command and control sites were destroyed. [40]

After thorough testing and modification of EC-135 command post aircraft, the ALCS demonstrated its capability on 17 April 1967 by launching an ERCS configured Minuteman II out of Vandenberg AFB, CA. Afterward, ALCS achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) on 31 May 1967. From that point on, airborne missileers stood alert with ALCS-capable EC-135 aircraft for several decades. All Minuteman ICBM Launch Facilities were modified and built to have the capability to receive commands from ALCS. With ALCS now standing alert around-the-clock, the Soviets could no longer successfully launch a Minuteman LCC decapitation strike. Even if the Soviets attempted to do so, EC-135s equipped with the ALCS could fly overhead and launch the remaining Minuteman ICBMs in retaliation. [41] Now that ALCS was on alert, this complicated Soviet war planning by forcing the Soviets to not only target the 100 LCCs, but also the 1000 silos with more than one warhead in order to guarantee destruction. This would have required upwards of 3000 warheads to complete such an attack. The odds of being successful in such an attack on the Minuteman ICBM force would have been extremely low. [41]

Today, the ALCS is operated by airborne missileers from Air Force Global Strike Command's (AFGSC) 625th Strategic Operations Squadron (STOS) and United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). The weapon system is now located on board the United States Navy's E-6B Mercury. The ALCS crew is integrated into the battle staff of the USSTRATCOM "Looking Glass" Airborne Command Post (ABNCP) and is on alert around-the-clock. [42] Although the Minuteman ICBM force has been reduced since the end of the Cold War, the ALCS continues to act as a force multiplier by ensuring that an adversary cannot launch a successful Minuteman LCC decapitation strike.


The Minuteman-III missile entered service in 1970, with weapon systems upgrades included during the production run from 1970 to 1978 to increase accuracy and payload capacity. As of 2016, the USAF plans to operate it until 2030. [43]

The LGM-118A Peacekeeper (MX) ICBM, which was to have replaced the Minuteman, was retired in 2005 as part of START II.

A total of 450 LGM-30G missiles are emplaced at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming (90th Missile Wing), Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota (91st Missile Wing), and Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana (341st Missile Wing). All Minuteman I and Minuteman II missiles have been retired. The United States prefers to keep its MIRV deterrents on submarine-launched Trident Nuclear Missiles. [44] Fifty of these will be put into "warm" unarmed status[ when? ], taking up half of the 100 slots in America's allowable nuclear reserve. [45]


A Minuteman-III missile in its silo Minuteman III in silo 1989.jpg
A Minuteman-III missile in its silo

Minuteman-III missiles are regularly tested with launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in order to validate the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapon system, as well as to support the system's primary purpose, nuclear deterrence. [46] The safety features installed on the Minuteman-III for each test launch allow the flight controllers to terminate the flight at any time if the systems indicate that its course may take it unsafely over inhabited areas. [47] Since these flights are for test purposes only, even terminated flights can send back valuable information to correct a potential problem with the system.

The 576th Flight Test Squadron is responsible for planning, preparing, conducting, and assessing all ICBM ground and flight tests.

The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota preserves a Launch Control Facility (D-01) and a launch facility (D-09) under the control of the National Park Service. [48] The North Dakota State Historical Society maintains the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site, preserving a Missile Alert Facility, Launch Control Center and Launch Facility in the WS-133B "Deuce" configuration, near Cooperstown, North Dakota. [49]

Other roles

Mobile Minuteman

Some effort was given to a mobile version of Minuteman to improve its survivability, but this was later cancelled. Mobile Minuteman train.png
Some effort was given to a mobile version of Minuteman to improve its survivability, but this was later cancelled.

Mobile Minuteman was a program for rail-based ICBMs to help increase survivability and for which the USAF released details on 12 October 1959. The Operation Big Star performance test was from 20 June to 27 August 1960 at Hill Air Force Base, and the 4062nd Strategic Missile Wing (Mobile) was organized 1 December 1960 for 3 planned missile train squadrons, each with 10 trains carrying 3 missiles per train. During the Kennedy/McNamara cutbacks, the DoD announced "that it has abandoned the plan for a mobile Minuteman ICBM. The concept called for 600 to be placed in service—450 in silos and 150 on special trains, each train carrying 5 missiles." [50] After Kennedy announced on 18 March 1961, that the 3 squadrons were to be replaced with "fixed-base squadrons", [51] Strategic Air Command discontinued the 4062nd Strategic Missile Wing on 20 February 1962.

Air Mobile Feasibility Demonstration - 24 October 1974 MMIII C5 airdrop(Oct 1974).jpg
Air Mobile Feasibility Demonstration – 24 October 1974

Air Launched ICBM

Air Launched ICBM was a STRAT-X proposal in which SAMSO (Space & Missile Systems Organization) successfully conducted an Air Mobile Feasibility Test that airdropped a Minuteman 1b from a C-5A Galaxy aircraft from 20,000 ft (6,100 m) over the Pacific Ocean. The missile fired at 8,000 ft (2,400 m), and the 10-second engine burn carried the missile to 20,000 feet again before it dropped into the ocean. Operational deployment was discarded due to engineering and security difficulties, and the capability was a negotiating point in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. [52]

Emergency Rocket Communications System (ERCS)

An additional part of the National Command Authority communication relay system was called the Emergency Rocket Communication System (ERCS). Specially designed rockets called BLUE SCOUT carried radio-transmitting payloads high above the continental United States, to relay messages to units within line-of-sight. In the event of a nuclear attack, ERCS payloads would relay pre-programmed messages giving the "go-order" to SAC units. BLUE SCOUT launch sites were located at Wisner, West Point and Tekamah, Nebraska. These locations were vital for ERCS effectiveness due to their centralized position in the US, within range of all missile complexes. Later ERCS configurations were placed on the top of modified Minuteman-II ICBMs (LGM-30Fs) under the control of the 510th Strategic Missile Squadron located at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

The Minuteman ERCS may have been assigned the designation LEM-70A. [53]

Satellite launching role

The U.S. Air Force has considered using some decommissioned Minuteman missiles in a satellite launching role. These missiles would be stored in silos, for launch upon short notice. The payload would be variable and would have the ability to be replaced quickly. This would allow a surge capability in times of emergency.

During the 1980s, surplus Minuteman missiles were used to power the Conestoga rocket produced by Space Services Inc. of America. It was the first privately developed rocket, but only saw three flights and was discontinued due to a lack of business. More recently, converted Minuteman missiles have been used to power the Minotaur line of rockets produced by Orbital Sciences.

Ground and air launch targets

L-3 Communications is currently using SR-19 SRBs, Minuteman-II Second Stage Solid Rocket Boosters, as delivery vehicles for a range of different re-entry vehicles as targets for the THAAD and ASIP interceptor missile programs as well as radar testing.


Connectivity of 91st MW Missile Field HICS Lines Connectivity2.PNG
Connectivity of 91st MW Missile Field

Flag of the United States.svg  United States: The United States Air Force has been the only operator of the Minuteman ICBM weapons system, currently with three operational wings and one test squadron operating the LGM-30G. The active inventory in FY 2009 is 450 missiles and 45 Missile Alert Facilities (MAF).

Operational units

The basic tactical unit of a Minuteman wing is the squadron, consisting of five flights. Each flight consists of ten unmanned launch facilities (LFs) which are remotely controlled by a manned launch control center (LCC). A two-officer crew is on duty in the LCC, typically for 24 hours. The five flights are interconnected and status from any LF may be monitored by any of the five LCCs. Each LF is located at least three nautical miles (5.6 km) from any LCC. Control does not extend outside the squadron (thus the 319th Missile Squadron's five LCCs cannot control the 320th Missile Squadron's 50 LFs even though they are part of the same Missile Wing). Each Minuteman wing is assisted logistically by a nearby Missile Support Base (MSB). If the ground-based LCCs are destroyed or incapacitated, the Minuteman ICBMs can be launched by airborne missileers utilizing the Airborne Launch Control System.


Active LGM-30 Minuteman deployment, 2010 Active LGM-30 Minuteman Sites.png
Active LGM-30 Minuteman deployment, 2010




A request for proposal for development and maintenance of a Ground Based Strategic Deterrent next-generation nuclear ICBM, was made by the US Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, ICBM Systems Directorate, GBSD Division on 29 July 2016. The GBSD would become the land-based portion of the US Nuclear Triad. [65] The new missile to be phased in over a decade from the late 2020s are estimated over a fifty-year life cycle to cost around $86 billion. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman are competing for the contract. [66] On 21 August 2017, the US Air Force awarded 3-year development contracts to Boeing and Northrop Grumman, for $349 million and $329 million, respectively. [67] One of these companies will be selected to produce this ground-based nuclear ICBM in 2020. In 2027 the GBSD program is expected to enter service and remain active until 2075. [68]

See also

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists


  1. The letter "L" in "LGM" indicates that the missile is silo-launched; the "G" indicates that it is designed to attack ground targets; the "M" indicates that it is a guided missile.
  2. A third gyro was later added for other reasons. [15]

Related Research Articles

Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle ballistic missile payload containing several warheads capable of independent targeting

A multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) is a missile payload containing several warheads, each capable of being aimed to hit a different target. The concept is almost invariably associated with intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying thermonuclear warheads, even if not strictly being limited to them. By contrast, a unitary warhead is a single warhead on a single missile. An intermediate case is the multiple reentry vehicle (MRV) missile which carries several warheads which are dispersed but not individually aimed. Only China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Pakistan and the United States are currently confirmed to possess functional MIRV missile systems. India, Israel are known or suspected to be developing or possessing MIRVs.

Vandenberg Air Force Base census-designated place in California, United States

Vandenberg Air Force Base is a United States Air Force Base 9.2 miles (14.8 km) northwest of Lompoc, California. It is under the jurisdiction of the 30th Space Wing, Air Force Space Command (AFSPC).

LGM-118 Peacekeeper former land-based ICBM deployed by the United States

The LGM-118A Peacekeeper, first known as the M-X or "Missile-X", was an encapsulated ICBM and the first U.S. ICBM to use a Cold Launch System. Although larger than the LGM-30 MMIII, the M-X was designed to fit inside existing hardened LGM-30 Minuteman III ICBM silos as a silo-based ICBM and later as a mobile ICBM via the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison. The first 50 M-X ICBMs were scheduled to be deployed and full IOC achieved by the United States beginning and ending in 1986. The M-X Peacekeeper was a MIRV missile platform that could carry up to 12 re-entry vehicles, each armed with a 300-kiloton W87 warhead in a Mk.21 reentry vehicle (RV). The first 50 missiles were deployed starting in 1986, after a long and contentious development program that traced its roots into the 1960s with the first generation ICBMs. Initial LGM-118A missile testing began 1971, with full-scale development starting in 1974. The first flight test occurred in 1983. This test also included the successful test deployment of six inert (unarmed) Re-entry vehicles, each hitting pre-planned targets. Initially, 100 M-X ICBMs were planned to be built and deployed, but Congressional and budgetary concerns eliminated the final procurement.

R-36 (missile) 1960s intercontinental ballistic missile family of the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces

The R-36 is a family of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and space launch vehicles (Tsyklon) designed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The original R-36 was deployed under the GRAU index 8K67 and was given the NATO reporting name SS-9 Scarp. It was able to carry three warheads and was the first Soviet MIRV missile. The later version, the R-36M was produced under the GRAU designations 15A14 and 15A18 and was given the NATO reporting name SS-18 Satan. This missile was viewed by certain United States analysts as giving the Soviet Union first strike advantage over the U.S., particularly because of its rapid silo-reload ability, very heavy throw weight and extremely large number of re-entry vehicles. Some versions of the R-36M were deployed with 10 warheads and up to 40 penetration aids and the missile's high throw-weight made it theoretically capable of carrying more warheads or penetration aids. Contemporary U.S. missiles, such as the Minuteman III, carried up to three warheads at most.

MGM-134 Midgetman intercontinental ballistic missile

The MGM-134A Midgetman, also known as the Small Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (SICBM), was an intercontinental ballistic missile developed by the United States Air Force. The system was mobile and could be set up rapidly, allowing it to move to a new firing location after learning of an enemy missile launch. To attack the weapon, the enemy would have to blanket the area around its last known location with multiple warheads, using up a large percentage of their force for limited gains and no guarantee that all of the missiles would be destroyed. In such a scenario, the U.S. would retain enough of their forces for a successful counterstrike, thereby maintaining a deterrence.

Nuclear triad nuclear weapons launchable from strategic bombers, submarines and ICBMs

A nuclear triad is a three-pronged military force structure that consists of land-launched nuclear missiles, nuclear-missile-armed submarines and strategic aircraft with nuclear bombs and missiles. Specifically, these components are land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and strategic bombers. The purpose of having this three-branched nuclear capability is to significantly reduce the possibility that an enemy could destroy all of a nation's nuclear forces in a first-strike attack. This, in turn, ensures a credible threat of a second strike, and thus increases a nation's nuclear deterrence.

Missile launch control center type of facility in the United States

A launch control center (LCC), in the United States, is the main control facility for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). A launch control center monitors and controls missile launch facilities. From a launch control center, the missile combat crew can monitor the complex, launch the missile, or relax in the living quarters. The LCC is designed to provide maximum protection for the missile combat crew and equipment vital to missile launch. Missile silos are common across the midwestern United States, and over 450 missiles remain in US Air Force (USAF) service.

44th Missile Wing

The 44th Missile Wing is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with Twentieth Air Force, being assigned to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. It was inactivated on 4 July 1994.

564th Missile Squadron

The 564th Missile Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the 341st Operations Group, stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.

625th Strategic Operations Squadron Unit of the US Air Force Global Strike Command responsible for survivable nuclear operations

The mission of the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron (STOS) is to execute and support global strike through continuous, rapid, accurate and survivable nuclear operations. The 625th STOS has five flights that play different roles in this mission. The Latin motto of the 625th STOS is Si vis pacem para bellum, which means, "If you wish for peace, prepare for war."

68th Missile Squadron

The 68th Missile Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the 44th Operations Group, stationed at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota.

Airborne Launch Control System US Strategic Command platform for survivable launch control system for ballistic missile force

The Airborne Launch Control System (ALCS) provides a survivable launch capability for the United States Air Force's LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force. The ALCS is operated by airborne missileers from Air Force Global Strike Command's (AFGSC) 625th Strategic Operations Squadron (STOS) and United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). The weapon system is located on board the United States Navy's E-6B Mercury, which serves as USSTRATCOM's "Looking Glass" Airborne Command Post (ABNCP). The ALCS crew is integrated into the ABNCP battle staff and is on alert around-the-clock.

Missile launch facility Building that stores and launches missiles.

A missile launch facility, also known as an underground missile silo, launch facility (LF), or nuclear silo, is a vertical cylindrical structure constructed underground, for the storage and launching of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

A missile combat crew (MCC), is a team of highly trained specialists, often called missileers, manning Intermediate Range and Intercontinental ballistic missile systems. In the United States, men and women, officially coded as Nuclear and Missile Operations Officers, of the United States Air Force, operate underground missile systems at launch control centers located throughout the country. There are also a select few missileers that have the chance to become part of a Missile Combat Crew-Airborne (MCC-A) operating the Airborne Launch Control System which provides a survivable launch capability for the Minuteman ICBM force. Crew size varied among the different missile systems, but the number was always greater than one, to abide by USSTRATCOM's Two-man rule for positive control of nuclear weapons.

Simulated Electronic Launch Minuteman (SELM) is a method used by the United States Air Force to verify the reliability of the LGM-30 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile. SELM replaces key components at the Launch Control Center to allow a physical "keyturn" by missile combat crew members. This test allows end-to-end verification in the ICBM launch process.

The ZBGM-75 Advanced Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, also known as Weapons System 120A (WS-120A), was a program to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), proposed by the United States Air Force in the 1960s as a replacement for the LGM-30 Minuteman as the Air Force's standard ICBM. Funding was not allocated for the program and the project was cancelled in 1967.

Francis E. Warren Air Force Base

Warren AFB or redirects here. See Francis E. Warren at the link.

In nuclear strategy, a counterforce target is one that has a military value, such as a launch silo for intercontinental ballistic missiles, an airbase at which nuclear-armed bombers are stationed, a homeport for ballistic missile submarines, or a command and control installation.



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  2. Bott, Mitch; et al. [presented by] (28 August 2009), Discussion of the Unique and Complementary Characteristics of the ICBM and SLBM Weapon Systems / Project on Nuclear Issues / August 6–7 2009 (PDF), Northrop Grumman, p. 5, archived from the original (PDF (PowerPoint)) on 2 June 2013, retrieved 25 January 2019CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link).
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Further reading