LGM-30 Minuteman

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LGM-30 Minuteman
Minuteman3launch.jpg
Type Intercontinental ballistic missile
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1962 (Minuteman-I)
1965 (Minuteman-II)
1970 (Minuteman-III)
Used by United States
Production history
Manufacturer Boeing
Unit cost $7,000,000
Specifications
Weight 78,000 lb (35,300 kg)
Length 59 ft 9.5 in (18.2 m)
Diameter 5 ft 6 in (1.7 m) (1st stage)
Warhead Nuclear: W62, W78, or (2006–) W87
Detonation
mechanism
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
Operational
range
approx. 8,100 (exact is classified)  miles (13,000 km)
Flight altitude 700 miles (1,120 kilometers)
Speed Approximately 15,000 mph (Mach 23, or 24,100 km/h, or 7 km/s) (terminal phase)
Guidance
system
Inertial
Accuracy 200 m CEP
Launch
platform
Missile Silo (MLCC)

The LGM-30 Minuteman is a US land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), in service with the Air Force Global Strike Command. As of 2014, the LGM-30G Minuteman-III version[a] is the only land-based ICBM in service in the United States. It is one component of the US 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. Each missile carries up to three nuclear warheads, which have a yield in the range of 300 to 500 kilotons. The Minuteman was the first MIRV-capable missile.

The name "Minuteman" comes from the Revolutionary War's Minutemen. It also refers to its quick reaction time; the missile can be launched within minutes after the receipt of a valid launch order.[2][3] The Air Force plans to keep the missile in service until at least 2030.[4][5]

The current US force consists of 450 Minuteman-III missiles[6] in missile silos around Malmstrom AFB, Montana; Minot AFB, North Dakota; and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming.[1] This will slowly[when?] be reduced to 400 armed missiles, with 50 unarmed missiles in reserve, and four non-deployed test launchers to comply with the New START treaty.[7]

History[edit]

Minuteman-I missile

Edward Hall and solid fuels[edit]

Minuteman owes its existence largely to the efforts of then 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, which had originally been formed to lead development of the Atlas and Titan ICMBs. Solid fuels were already commonly used in rockets, but strictly for short-range uses. Hall's superiors were interested in short and medium range missiles with solids, especially for use in Europe, 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]

To achieve the required energy, 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, increasing thrust. This also meant the heat was spread across the entire motor and did not reach the wall of the missile fuselage until the engine was finished burning.[9]

Guidance of an ICBM is based not only on the direction the missile is travelling, 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 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 snuffed out.[9]

Rapid success in the development program, combined with Edward Teller's promise of much lighter nuclear warheads during Project Nobska, led the Navy to abandon their work with the US Army's liquid fuel Jupiter missile and begin development of a solid fuel missile of their own. They felt that liquid fuels were too dangerous to use onboard ships, and especially submarines. Aerojet's work with Hall would be adapted for their Polaris missile starting in December 1956.[10]

Missile farm concept[edit]

The Air Force, however, saw no pressing need for a solid fuel ICBM. Atlas and Titan were progressing, and "storable" liquids were being developed that would allow the missiles to be left in a ready-to-shoot form for extended periods. But 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 much simpler to build, and easier to maintain in service.[11]

His ultimate plan was to build a number of integrated missile "farms" that included factories, missile silos, transport and even recycling. Each farm would support between 1,000 and 1,500 missiles being produced in a continual low rate cycle. Systems in the missiles would detect failures, at which point it would be removed and recycled, while a newly built missile was put into the silo.[11] The missile design itself 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 ICBM.[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 would mean much smaller and cheaper silos. Hall's goal of dramatic cost reduction was a success, although many of the other concepts of his missile farm was abandoned.[12]

Missile gap[edit]

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. 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, concerned about the survivability of its striking force in the short term, began the WS-199 program to develop a survivable strategic missile, and pushed Minuteman for crash development starting in September 1958.[13]

Advanced surveying of the potential silo sites had already begun in late 1957. Fears of a Soviet anti-ballistic missile system, which was known to be under development at Sary Shagan, led to calls for the adoption of a maneuvering reentry vehicle (MARV), which greatly complicates the problem of shooting down a warhead. Development of MARV systems began under the Alpha Draco and Boost Glide Reentry Vehicle programs in 1957. These used long and skinny arrow-like shapes that required more room on the front of the missile. To address this, 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.[13]

Guidance system[edit]

Main article: Missile guidance
Autonetics D-17 guidance computer from a Minuteman-I missile.

Previous long-range missiles were liquid fueled and required considerable time, 30 minutes to an hour or more, to be fueled. During this time other crewmembers would be spinning up the inertial guidance system, setting its initial position, and programming in the target coordinates. This normally took about as long as the fueling process, so it was not considered a problem that needed to be solved.[14] Minuteman was designed from the outset to be launched in minutes. While the use of solid fuel eliminated the delays fueling up, it did nothing for the delays in erecting and aligning the guidance system. For quick launch, the guidance system would have to be kept running and aligned at all times, a serious problem for the mechanical systems of the era, especially the gyroscopes which used ball bearings.[15]

After considerable deliberation, a design by Autonetics using air bearings was selected, after they pointed out that their experimental set had been running continually from 1952 to 1957.[15] Autonetics further advanced the state of the art by building their bearing not in the form of a single spindle but a ball. This allowed the gyros to precess in two directions instead of along a single axis, meaning that only two gyros instead of three would be needed for the inertial platform.[16][b]

The last major advance in the Minuteman development was the decision to use a general purpose digital computer in place of the analog or custom designed digital computers of earlier missile designs. This was not chosen to improve the guidance accuracy per se, but a side effect of wishing to reduce the total number of parts in the missile. Previous missile designs had an autopilot that kept the missile flying in a straight line, and a separate guidance system that provided inputs to the autopilot to adjust its trajectory. Using a single more powerful computer would eliminate the need for two separate units.[17]

Since the guidance computer would otherwise be doing nothing while the missile sat in the silo, using a general purpose computer and simply running a different program on it allowed it to handle the monitoring of the various sensors and test equipment. With older designs this had been handled externally, requiring miles of extra wiring and many connectors. In order to store multiple programs, the computer was built in the form of a drum machine but used a hard disk in place of the drum.[17]

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 to work and were abandoned. The Air Force and Autonetics spent millions on a program to improve transistor and component reliability 100 times. This program led to the "Minuteman high-rel parts" that had enormous spin-off effects in the electronics industry.[18]

The use of a general purpose computer would have long-lasting effects on the Minuteman program, and the US's nuclear stance in general. Earlier ICBMs using custom wired computers were capable of attacking a single target, the precise trajectory information hard coded directly in the system's logic. With Minuteman, the targeting could be easily changed by loading new trajectory information into the computer's memory, a somewhat time consuming process, but one that could be completed in a few hours.[14]

Much more importantly, this reprogrammability meant that the information could be continually updated in the field, allowing the system to gain accuracy as improving estimates of the Earth's gravitational field were fed into the system. Initially deployed with an estimated best-case circular error probable (CEP) of 1.1 nautical miles (2.0 km; 1.3 mi), Minuteman underwent several in-field updates that roughly halved this to 0.6 nautical miles (1.1 km; 0.69 mi) by about 1965.[19] This was accomplished without any mechanical changes to the missile or its navigation system.[14]

The Puzzle of Polaris[edit]

Main article: UGM-27 Polaris
Polaris could do everything the Air Force missiles could, and was essentially invulnerable 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 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 were confident that their bombers would survive in great enough numbers that such a strike would utterly destroy the country.[20]

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 SACs bomber fleet. 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. Missiles, especially later models housed in silos, could be expected to survive a sneak attack in sufficient numbers to ensure destruction of all major Soviet cities. In such an environment, the Soviets would not risk an attack.[20]

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. 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.[21] All that had to be ensured was that the US missiles survived, which seemed likely given the low accuracy of the Soviet weapons.

This presented a serious problem for the Air Force. While still pressing for development of their bombers as the weapon of choice against military targets, at that time represented by the supersonic B-70, it appeared the missile role was served perfectly well by the Navy's Polaris. Polaris was essentially invulnerable, and the Navy's intended fleet of 41 submarines carrying 16 missiles each meant the Navy held a finite deterrent that was unassailable. A February 1960 memo by RAND entitled "The Puzzle of Polaris" was passed around among high-ranking Air Force officials, suggesting that Polaris negated any need for Air Force ICBMs if they were also being aimed at Soviet cities. This would have long-lasting effects on the future of the Minuteman program, which, by 1961, was firmly evolving towards a counterforce capability.[22]

Kennedy and Minuteman[edit]

Minuteman was entering final testing just as John Kennedy was entering the White House. His new Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, was tasked with the seemingly impossible mission of producing the world's best defense while at the same time limiting spending. McNamara began to apply cost/benefit analysis to the problem, and Minuteman's low production cost made its selection as the basis for a US buildout natural. Atlas and Titan were soon scrapped, and the storable liquid fueled Titan II deployment was severely curtailed.[12] Perhaps a foregone conclusion, McNamara also cancelled the B-70.[23]

Minuteman's low cost also had spin-off effects on non-ICBM programs. Another way to prevent a sneak attack was provided by the Army's Nike Zeus, an interceptor missile that was capable of shooting down the Soviet warheads. 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, however, and the Air Force pointed out that it was less expensive to build another Minuteman missile than the Zeus system needed to protect it. 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 cancelled in 1963.[24]

Minuteman and counterforce[edit]

Minuteman's selection as the primary Air Force ICBM was initially based on the same logic as their earlier missiles, that the weapon was primarily one designed to ride out 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.

Primary 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.[25]

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.

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 that of the Minuteman, and in spite of great efforts through the 1960s this was never addressed. The B-1 of the early 1970s eventually emerged with a price tag around $200 million ($572 million today) while the Minuteman-III's built during the 1970s cost only $7 million ($25 million today).

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 2000s. Although this argument was successful, the numbers of manned bombers has been repeatedly cut and the deterrent role increasingly passed to missiles.

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

See also W56 Warhead
Some effort was given to a mobile version of Minuteman to improve its survivability, but this was later cancelled.

Deployment[edit]

The LGM-30A Minuteman-I was first test-fired on 1 February 1961,[26] and entered into the Strategic Air Command's arsenal in 1962, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana;[27] the "improved" LGM-30B 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. 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.

Guidance[edit]

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 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-17B and the D-37C guidance and control computers were integral components of the Minuteman-I and Minuteman-II missiles, respectively, which formed a part of the United States ICBM arsenal. The Minuteman-III missiles, which use D-37D computers, complete the 1000 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)[edit]

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 upper 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, a 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 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 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, 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 2000 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.[28]
  • 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.

Minuteman-III (LGM-30G): the current model [edit]

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.

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.[1] The missile retains a gimballed inertial guidance system.

Minuteman-III originally contained the following distinguishing features:

  • Armed with W62 warhead, having a yield of only 170 kilotons TNT, instead of previous W56's yield of 1.2 megatons.[29]
  • It was the first[30] Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRV) missile. A single missile was then able to target 3 separate locations. This was an improvement from the Minuteman-I and Minuteman-II models, which were only able to carry one large warhead.
    • An RS capable of deploying, in addition to the warheads, penetration aids such as chaff and decoys.
    • Minuteman-III introduced in the post-boost-stage ("bus") an additional liquid-fuel propulsion system rocket engine (PSRE) that is used to slightly adjust the trajectory. This enables it to dispense decoys or – with MIRV – dispense individual RVs to separate targets. For the PSRE it uses the bipropellant Rocketdyne RS-14 engine.
  • The Hercules M57 third stage of Minuteman-I and Minuteman-II had thrust termination ports on the sides. These ports, when opened by detonation of shaped charges, reduced the chamber pressure so abruptly that the interior flame was blown out. This allowed a precisely timed termination of thrust for targeting accuracy. The larger Minuteman-III third-stage motor also has thrust termination ports although the final velocity is determined by PSRE.
  • A fixed nozzle with a liquid injection TVC system on the new third-stage motor (similar to the second-stage Minuteman-II nozzle) additionally increased range.
  • A flight computer (Autonetics D37D) with larger disk memory and enhanced capability.
    • A Honeywell HDC-701 flight computer which employed non-destructive read out (NDRO) plated wire memory instead of rotating magnetic disk for primary storage was developed as a backup for the D37D, but was never adopted.
    • The Guidance Replacement Program (GRP), initiated in 1993, replaced the disk-based D37D flight computer with a new one that uses radiation-resistant semiconductor RAM.
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 backaway.
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.[31]

Guidance Replacement Program (GRP)[edit]

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.[4]

Propulsion Replacement Program (PRP)[edit]

Beginning in 1998 and continuing through 2009,[32] the Propulsion Replacement Program extends the life and maintains the performance by replacing the old solid propellant boosters (downstages).

Single Reentry Vehicle (SRV)[edit]

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.

Safety Enhanced Reentry Vehicle (SERV)[edit]

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. The first SERV-modded Minuteman-III was put on alert status at FE Warren AFB, Wyoming, in 2006.[citation needed]

Current and future deployment[edit]

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 2008, the USAF plans to operate it until at least 2030.[4][5]

The LGM-118A Peacekeeper (MX) ICBM, which was to have replaced the Minuteman, was retired in 2005 as part of START II.[33]

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.[34] Fifty of these will be put into "warm" unarmed status[when?], taking up half the 100 slots in America's allowable nuclear reserve.[35]

Testing[edit]

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. 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. 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.

Advanced Maneuverable Reentry Vehicle[edit]

When defending hardened targets, it is possible for a defensive ABM system to accurately track incoming warheads and choose to ignore those that will fall outside the lethal range of the target. This can, depending on the accuracy of the warheads, greatly reduce the number of defensive missiles that have to be fired in response to an attack. The simplest way to counter this possibility is to make a reentry vehicle that can maneuver, approaching its target along a trajectory that looks like it is going to miss, and then correcting at the last possible moment, leaving too little time for the defensive missile to launch. This concept is known as a maneuverable reentry vehicle, or MARV.

The Advanced Maneuverable Reentry Vehicle (AMaRV) was a prototype MARV built by McDonnell-Douglas Corp.. Four AMaRVs were made and represented a significant leap in Reentry Vehicle sophistication. Three of the AMaRVs were launched by surplus Minuteman-1s on 20 December 1979, 8 October 1980 and 4 October 1981. AMaRV had an entry mass of approximately 470 kg, a nose radius of 2.34 cm, a forward frustum half-angle of 10.4°, an inter-frustum radius of 14.6 cm, aft frustum half angle of 6°, and an axial length of 2.079 meters. No accurate diagram or picture of AMaRV has ever appeared in the open literature. However, a schematic sketch of an AMaRV-like vehicle along with trajectory plots showing hairpin turns has been published.[36] AMaRV's attitude was controlled through a split body flap (also called a "split-windward flap") along with two yaw flaps mounted on the vehicle's sides. Hydraulic actuation was used for controlling the flaps. AMaRV was guided by a fully autonomous navigation system designed for evading anti-ballistic missile (ABM) interception.

Related programs[edit]

  • Remote Visual Assessment (RVA): provides real-time video to ICBM security forces. This video allows forces to respond to threats more quickly, and with appropriate force and situational awareness. RVA will also cut down on "wear and tear" of equipment and personnel, often caused from responding to false alarm threats.
  • Missile Defense: Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI, "space bullet")
  • LONG LIFE: launch of Minuteman from 'live' launch facility w/7 sec of fuel
  • BUSY SENTRY: Strategic Air Command exercise for intercontinental ballistic missile units.
  • BUSY SURVEY II: Strategic Air Command Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) 4D missile training assistance program
  • BUSY USHER: Strategic Air Command launch of No. 13 LF-02 missile MK-1 Minuteman-II
  • BUTTON UP: Strategic Air Command security system reset procedures used during Minuteman facility wind down
  • DUST HARDNESS: A modification improvement to Minuteman-III approved for service use in 1972
  • GIANT PATRIOT: The code name describes an operational base launch program of test flights of Minuteman-II missiles. The program was terminated by Congress in July 1974
  • GIANT PLOW: An Air Force Minuteman launcher closure test program
  • GIANT PROFIT: A Minuteman modified operational missile test plan
  • GIGANTIC CHARGE: Program to notify NORAD of all or part of Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP)[i] targeting for Minuteman
  • GIN PLAYER: Strategic Air Command tests of Minuteman missile for identification and execution
  • HAVE LEAP: A Space and Missile Test Center support of Minuteman-III program
  • MIDDLE GUST: An Air Force test conducted at Crowley, CO involving a simulated nuclear overblast of a Minuteman silo
  • OLD FOX: Minuteman-III flight tests
  • OLYMPIC ARENA III: Strategic Air Command missile competition of all nine operational missile units
  • OLYMPIC EVENT: A Minuteman III nuclear operational systems test
  • OLYMPIC PLAY: A Strategic Air Command missiles and operational ground equipment program for EWO missions
  • OLYMPIC TRIALS: A program to represent a series of launches having common objectives
  • PACER GALAXY: Support of Minuteman force modification program
  • PAVE PEPPER: An Air Force SAMSO (Space & Missile Systems Organization) project to decrease the size of the Minuteman III warheads and allow for more to be launched by one Minuteman.
  • RIVET ADD: Modification of Minuteman-II launch facilities to hold MM III missiles
  • RIVET MILE: Minuteman Integrated Life Extension. Included IMPSS security system upgrade.
  • RIVET SAVE: A Minuteman crew sleep program modification to reduce personnel number
  • SABER SAFE: Minuteman pre-launch survivability program
  • SABER SECURE: A Minuteman rebasing program
  • SENTINEL ALLOY: Land gravity surveys in support of the Minuteman system, cancelled
  • UPGRADE SILO: A modification improvement program for Minuteman-III

Influences[edit]

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.

Appearances in media[edit]

Footage of Minuteman-III ICBM test launches have been featured in several theatrical films and television movies where missile launch footage is needed. The Department of Defense film released for use was mainly drawn from Vandenberg Air Force Base test shots in 1966, including from a "salvo launch" (more than one ICBM launched simultaneously).

Theatrically released films using the footage include (most notably), the 1978 film Superman (which features the "twin shot"), and more extensively, the 1977 nuclear war film Damnation Alley. The made for TV film The Day After also features the same footage, although the first stage of flight is completed via special effects. Terminator 3 uses computer generated images of Minuteman missiles launching from the Plains on "Judgment Day". Minutemen also feature in Eagle Strike, by Anthony Horowitz, in which fictional power-crazed multimillionaire Damian Cray orders their release from Air Force One. In the film WarGames a failed Minuteman launch simulation exercise caused by a conflicted launch control officer is the impetus for the conversion of the missiles to full automatic control by the computer system that Matthew Broderick's character later hacks into.

Other roles[edit]

Mobile Minuteman[edit]

For the subsequent plans for Peacekeeper Rail Garrison and Soviet Scalpel rail basing, see LGM-118A and SS-24.

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."[37] After Kennedy announced on 18 March 1961, that the 3 squadrons were to be replaced with "fixed-base squadrons",[38] Strategic Air Command discontinued the 4062nd Strategic Missile Wing on 20 February 1962.

Air Launched ICBM[edit]

Air Launched ICBM was a STRAT-X proposal[39] in which SAMSO 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.[40][41]

Emergency Rocket Communications System (ERCS)[edit]

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.[42]

Satellite launching role[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Operator[edit]

Connectivity of 91st SW Missile Field

 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[edit]

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). 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 Space Launch Wing). Each Minuteman wing is assisted logistically by a nearby Missile Support Base (MSB).

Active[edit]

Active LGM-30 Minuteman deployment, 2010

Historical[edit]

Support[edit]

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists

Notes[edit]

  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.[1]
  2. ^ A third gyro was later added for other reasons.[16]

^i All available descriptions of GIGANTIC CHARGE use the identical language shown here, so it's not clear whether the "strategic" was instead supposed to be "single" to match the normal meaning of the SIOP acronym (Single Integrated Operational Plan), or whether this was intentionally referring to a separate plan. Without any further context, the phrasing doesn't give enough detail to distinguish.

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Factsheets : LGM-30G Minuteman III". Af.mil. 26 July 2010. Archived from the original on 12 December 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Unique and Complementary Characteristics of the U.S. ICBM and SLBM Weapons Systems by Mitch Bott (PDF), Center for Strategic and International Studies, Date unspecified, p. 76  Check date values in: |date= (help).
  3. ^ Discussion of the Unique and Complementary Characteristics of the ICBM and SLBM Weapon Systems (PDF), Center for Strategic and International Studies/Northrop Grumman, 2009, p. 5 .
  4. ^ a b c "Photo Release – Northrop Grumman/Air Force Complete Guidance Upgrade Installations on Minuteman III ICBMs (NYSE:NOC)". Irconnect.com. 11 March 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Earmark Disclosure 81542, Minuteman III Solid Rocket Motor Warm Line Program (SRMWL)". WashingtonWatch.com. 14 March 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  6. ^ Norris, R. S. and H. M. Kristensen U.S. nuclear forces, 2009 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists March/April 2009
  7. ^ http://www.defense.gov/documents/Fact-Sheet-on-US-Nuclear-Force-Structure-under-the-New-START-Treaty.pdf
  8. ^ a b c MacKenzie 1993, p. 152.
  9. ^ a b c Thomas H. Maugh II, "Edward N. Hall, 91; Rocket Pioneer Seen as the Father of Minuteman ICBM", LA Times, 16 January 2006
  10. ^ Teller, Edward (2001). Memoirs: A Twentieth Century Journey in Science and Politics. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Publishing. pp. 420–421. ISBN 0-7382-0532-X. 
  11. ^ a b MacKenzie 1993, p. 153.
  12. ^ a b c d MacKenzie 1993, p. 154.
  13. ^ a b Yengst 2010, p. 46.
  14. ^ a b c MacKenzie 1993, p. 156.
  15. ^ a b MacKenzie 1993, p. 157.
  16. ^ a b MacKenzie 1993, p. 159.
  17. ^ a b MacKenzie 1993, p. 160.
  18. ^ MacKenzie 1993, pp. 160-161.
  19. ^ MacKenzie 1993, pp. 205-206.
  20. ^ a b MacKenzie 1993, p. 202.
  21. ^ MacKenzie 1993, p. 199.
  22. ^ MacKenzie 1993, p. 197.
  23. ^ MacKenzie 1993, p. 203.
  24. ^ * Kaplan, Fred (2008). Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power. John Wiley & Sons. p. 81. ISBN 9780470121184. 
  25. ^ MacKenzie 1993, p. 166.
  26. ^ "The 6555th, Chapter III, Section 8, The MINUTEMAN Ballistic Missile Test Program". Fas.org. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  27. ^ "BOEING LGM-30A MINUTEMAN IA". National Museum of the Air Force. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  28. ^ The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, Walter Isaacson, Simon & Schuster, 2014, p.181.
  29. ^ "Complete List of All U.S. Nuclear Weapons". Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  30. ^ "Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs)". 
  31. ^ "Life Extension Programs modernize ICBMs."
  32. ^ 2006 ATK press release on PRP[dead link]
  33. ^ Edwards, Joshua S. (20 September 2005). "Peacekeeper missile mission ends during ceremony". United States Air Force. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 28 May 2009. 
  34. ^ http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=2200&tid=1400&ct=2
  35. ^ Kristensen, Hans M. (9 April 2014). "Obama Administration Decision Weakens New START Implementation". fas.org. Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  36. ^ Regan, Frank J. and Anadakrishnan, Satya M., "Dynamics of Atmospheric Re-Entry," AIAA Education Series, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., New York, ISBN 1-56347-048-9, (1993).
  37. ^ "Minuteman: The West's Biggest Missile Programme". Flight: 844. 21 December 1961. 
  38. ^ title tbd (KENNEDY SPEECH), The three mobile Minuteman squadrons funded in the January budget should be deferred for the time being and replaced by three more fixed-base squadrons (thus increasing the total number of missiles added by some two-thirds). Development work on the mobile version will continue. 
  39. ^ "History Milestones". U.S. Air Force. AF.mil. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2012. 
  40. ^ U.S. Air Force, Inside the AF.MIL Heritage section (Thursday, 1 January 1970 – Sunday, 31 December 1989)
  41. ^ Marti and Sarigul-Klijn, A Study of Air Launch Methods for RLVs. Doc No. AIAA 2001–4619, Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Dept, University of California, Davis, CA 95616
  42. ^ Parsch, Andreas (2002). "Boeing LEM-70 Minuteman ERCS". Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles. designation-systems.net. Retrieved 10 January 2011. 
  43. ^ Hill AFB, Utah
  44. ^ Vandenberg AFB, California

Bibliograby[edit]

  • Heefner, Gretchen (2012). The Missile Next Door: The Minuteman in the American Heartland. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Lloyd, A. (2000). Cold War Legacy: A Tribute to the Strategic Air Command: 1946–1992. New York: Turner Publishing.
  • MacKenzie, Donald (1993). Inventing Accuracy: A Historical Sociology of Missile Guidance. MIT Press. 
  • Neal, Roy. (1962). Ace in the Hole: The Story of the Minuteman Missile. New York: Doubleday & Company.
  • TRW Systems (2001). Minuteman Weapon System History and Description.
  • Zuckerman, E. (1984). The Day after World War III. New York: Viking Press.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Boeing Corporation (1973). Technical Order 21M-LGM30G-1-1: Minuteman Weapon System Description. Seattle: Boeing Aerospace. Contains basic weapon descriptions.
  • The Boeing Corporation (1973). Technical Order 21M-LGM30G-1-22: Minuteman Weapon System Operations. Seattle: Boeing Aerospace. Operators Manual.
  • The Boeing Corporation (1994). Technical Order 21M-LGM30G-2-1-7: Organizational Maintenance Control, Minuteman Weapon System. Seattle: Boeing Aerospace. Operators Manual.

External links[edit]