The Minuteman is a strategic
weapon system using a ballistic missile of intercontinental range. Missiles are
dispersed in hardened silos to protect against attack and connected to an underground
launch control center through a system of hardened cables. Launch crews, consisting
of two officers, perform around-the-clock alert in the launch control center.
A variety of communication systems provide the National Command Authorities with
highly reliable, virtually instantaneous direct contact with each launch crew.
command capability be lost between the launch control center and remote missile
launch facilities, specially-configured EC-135 airborne launch control center
aircraft automatically assume command and control of the isolated missile or missiles.
Fully qualified airborne missile combat crews aboard airborne launch control center
aircraft would execute the NCA orders.
weapon system was conceived in the late 1950s and deployed in the early 1960s.
Minuteman was a revolutionary concept and an extraordinary technical achievement.
Both the missile and basing components incorporated significant advances beyond
the relatively slow-reacting, liquid-fueled, remotely-controlled intercontinental
ballistic missiles of the previous generation. From the beginning, Minuteman missiles
have provided a quick-reacting, inertially guided, highly survivable component
to America's nuclear Triad. Minuteman's maintenance concept capitalizes on high
reliability and a "remove and replace" approach to achieve a near 100
percent alert rate.
Through state-of-the-art improvements, the Minuteman
system has evolved to meet new challenges and assume new missions. Modernization
programs have resulted in new versions of the missile, expanded targeting options,
significantly improved accuracy and survivability. Today's Minuteman weapon system
is the product of almost 35 years of continuous enhancement.
Minuteman force consists of 530 Minuteman III's located at F.E. Warren Air Force
Base, Wyo.; Malmstrom AFB, Mont.; Minot AFB, N.D.; and Grand Forks AFB, N.D. As
a result of U.S. initiatives to cancel development programs for new intercontinental
ballistic missiles and retire the Peacekeeper ICBM, Minuteman will become the
only land-based ICBM in the Triad. To compensate for termination of the Small
ICBM and Peacekeeper Rail Garrison programs, DOD will conduct an extensive life
extension program to keep Minuteman viable beyond the turn of the century. These
major programs include replacement of the aging guidance system, remanufacture
of the solid-propellant rocket motors, replacement of standby power systems, repair
of launch facilities, and installation of updated, survivable communications equipment
and new command and control consoles to enhance immediate communications.
Primary function: Intercontinental ballistic missile
Contractor: Boeing Corp.
Power plant: Three solid-propellant rocket motors; first stage, Thiokol;
second stage, Aerojet-General; third stage, United Technologies Chemical Systems
Thrust: First stage, 202,600 pounds (91,170 kilograms)
feet (18 meters)
Weight: 79,432 pounds (32,158 kilograms)
Diameter: 5.5 feet
Range: 6,000-plus miles (5,218 nautical miles)
15,000 mph (Mach 23 or 24,000 kph) at burnout
Ceiling: 700 miles (1,120 kilometers)
Load: Re-entry vehicle: General Electric MK 12 or MK 12A
Guidance systems: Inertial
system: Autonetics Division of Rockwell International; ground electronic/security
system: Sylvania Electronics Systems and Boeing Co.
Warheads: Three (downloaded
to one as required by the Washington Summit Agreement, June 1992)
Unit cost: $7 million
Date deployed: June 1970, production cessation: December, 1978
Inventory: Active force, 530; Reserve, 0; ANG, 0
BACK TO: USAF WEAPONS INDEX * AIR SHOW PHOTOS