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The LGM-30 Minuteman is a United States nuclear missile, a land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). As of 2006 it is the only land-based ICBM in service in the United States. It is complemented by the sea-launched Trident missile ICBM (SLBM) and by nuclear weapons carried by long-range strategic bombers; see current status of United States nuclear weapons. The L indicates that the missile is silo-launched; the G indicates that it is designed to attack surface targets; and the M indicates that it is a guided missile. The name "Minuteman" comes from the Revolutionary War's Minutemen.
The current Minuteman force consists of 500 Minuteman IIIs in missile silos around F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. It is a guided missile, with three solid-fuel stages, and in addition, in the post-boost stage ("bus"), a liquid-fuel propulsion system rocket engine used to fine-tune the trajectory of the reentry vehicle and/or dispense individual warheads to separate targets across a broad area. The missile has a gimballed inertial guidance system. The third stage has precision shutdown ports which, when opened, reduce the chamber pressure so abruptly that the interior flame is blown out. This allows a more precise trajectory which improves targeting accuracy. The post-boost stage carries, in addition to the warheads, penetration aids such as chaff and decoys. With START II’s ban on multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) now a dead letter, earlier plans to reduce the number of warheads per missile to one have been revised: the United States is now considering keeping 800 warheads on the Minuteman force. 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. 1998 USAF plans are to operate it until 2025. The LGM-118A Peacekeeper MX ICBM, which was meant to replace the Minuteman, was due to be retired by 2005. The Peacekeeper suffered from controversy over various mobile basing schemes, but the original Peacekeeper basing plan included being deployed on railroad cars.
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 2020 by replacing aging parts and assemblies with current, high reliability technology while maintaining the current accuracy performance.
Propulsion Replacement Program (PRP)
The Propulsion Replacement Program extends the life, maintains the performance, and improves the reliability of the operational ICBM force by replacing the old solid propellant boosters (downstages) with new "environmentally friendly" booster.
Single Reentry Vehicle (SRV)
The Single Reentry Vehicle (SRV) modification allows the United States ICBM force to abide by START treaty requirements by reconfiguring Minuteman III missiles from three re-entry vehicles down to one.
Safety Enhanced Reentry Vehicle (SERV)
Beginning in 2006, Mk-21/W87 RVs from the deactivated LGM-118A Peacekeeper missile will be placed on the Minuteman III force under the Safety Enhanced Reentry Vehicle (SERV) program. The older W78 currently used is not equipped with important safety features. In addition to adding additional safety features into at least a portion of the future Minuteman III force, the decision to transfer W87 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 provide a greater probability of damage.
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 (i.e. The 319th missile squadron's five LCCs cannot control the 320th Missile Squadron's 50 LFs). Each Minuteman wing is assisted logistically by a nearby Missile Support Base (MSB).
United States: The United States Air Force is the only operator of the Minuteman III, with three operational wings and one test squadron operating the LGM-30G:
526th ICBM Systems Wing — Hill AFB, Utah 576th Flight Test Squadron — Vandenberg AFB, California — "Top Hand" Wing One: 341st Space Wing — Malmstrom AFB, Montana — "Grizzlies" o 10th Missile Squadron — "First Aces" o 12th Missile Squadron — "Red Dawgs" o 490th Missile Squadron — "Farsiders" o 564th Missile Squadron — "Deuce" Wing Two: 44th Strategic Missile Wing — Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota — "Black Hills Bandits" — Deactivated o 66th Missile Squadron o 67th Missile Squadron o 68th Missile Squadron Wing Three: 91st Space Wing — Minot AFB, North Dakota — "Roughriders" o 740th Missile Squadron — "Vulgar Vultures" o 741st Missile Squadron — "Gravelhaulers" o 742nd Missile Squadron — "Wolf Pack" Wing Four: 351st Strategic Missile Wing — Whiteman AFB, Missouri — Deactivated o 508th Missile Squadron o 509th Missile Squadron
510th Missile Squadron Wing Five: 90th Space Wing — F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming o 319th Missile Squadron — "Screaming Eagles" o 320th Missile Squadron o 321st Missile Squadron — "Frontier Warriors" Wing Six: 321st Strategic Missile Wing — Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota — Deactivated o 446th Missile Squadron o 447th Missile Squadron o 448th Missile Squadron
Minuteman I missile
The Minuteman I and II were in service from 1960 until 1997. The Minuteman III was first deployed in 1969 and with the latest upgrades is expected to remain in service through the year 2025. The Minuteman had two innovations that gave it a long practical service life: a solid rocket booster, and a digital flight computer. This computer was one of the very first recognizably modern embedded systems. The solid rocket booster made the Minuteman faster to launch than other ICBMs, which used liquid fuels. A crucial innovation in this area was to include a valve to release the booster pressure, and permit effective throttling of the booster. A reprogrammable inertial guidance system was a major risk in the original program. When first proposed, no one had built a digital computer that would fit in a missile. One program, the SM-64 Navaho, had already failed to produce such a system. A digital computer was essential to obtain the accuracy gains that kept this weapon effective throughout the Cold War. As the Defense Mapping Agency (now part of National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency)
more accurately mapped mass concentrations in the Earth, the inertial guidance software could be updated and loaded into the missiles to make them ever more accurate by having them compensate for these sources of gravity. Another gain that persuaded program managers to accept the risk of the computer was that the computer could also be used to test the missile. This saved a large amount of weight in cables and connectors.
Minuteman I (LGM-30A/B or SM-80/HSM-80A)
Autonetics D-17 guidance computer from a Minuteman I missile.
The LGM-30A Minuteman I entered into the Strategic Air Command's arsenal in 1962, at Malmstrom AFB, Montana; the 'improved' LGM-30B became operational at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, Minot AFB, North Dakota, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, and Whiteman AFB, Missouri in 1963. All 800 Minuteman I missiles were delivered by June 1965. Each of the bases had 150 missiles emplaced, except for F.E. Warren AFB, which had 200 missiles. 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 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 hard 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 (FADAC) that permitted simple instruction execution every word time.
Minuteman II (LGM-30F)
Side-view of Minuteman I and II ICBM
Minuteman II launch
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's 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, payload 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 ABM 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). Performance improvements realized in Minuteman II include greater range, increased throw weight, improved accuracy and reliability, multiple target selection, and greater penetration capability.
The major new features provided by Minuteman II were: o An improved first-stage motor to increase reliability. o A new-technology, single, fixed nozzle with liquid injection thrust vector control (TVC) on a larger second stage motor to increase missile range. Additional motor improvements to increase reliability. o An improved guidance system, incorporating semiconductor integrated circuits 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. o A penetration aids system to camouflage the warhead during its reentry into an enemy environment.
A larger warhead in the reentry vehicle (RV) 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 LGM-118A, as these latter missiles were introduced into modified Minuteman silos. The Minuteman II program was economically crucial to the development of integrated circuits. It was the first mass-produced system to use a computer constructed from integrated circuits, and used most of the production of such circuits from 1962 through 1967. The other major customer of these circuits was the Apollo Guidance Computer, which had similar weight and ruggedness constraints. The Minuteman II flight computer continued to use rotating magnetic disk for primary storage. A total of 450 LGM-30F missiles were emplaced at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota (44th Strategic Missile Wing), Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota (321st Strategic Missile Wing), Malmstrom AFB, Montana (341st Strategic Missile Wing), and Whiteman AFB, Missouri (351st Strategic Missile Wing).
Minuteman III (LGM-30G)
Side-view of Minuteman III ICBM
Honeywell HDC-701 Guidance computer from a Minuteman III missile, on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
The LGM-30G Minuteman III program started in 1966, and included several improvements that distinguish it from the LGM-30F Minuteman II. Most modifications related to the final stage and reentry system, with the third stage 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.
Minuteman III contains the following distinguishing features: o A larger third-stage motor to increase range. o A fixed nozzle with a liquid injection TVC system on the new third-stage motor (similar to the second-stage Minuteman II nozzle) to increase range. o A RS capable of deploying penetration aids (chaff) and up to three RVs to increase payload delivery. o An added post-boost propulsion system (the Propulsion System Rocket Engine, or PSRE) to increase range and maneuver the RS. This maneuverability allows the RS to be positioned at selected locations prior to the deployment of its RVs and penetration aids. o Improved electronics in the guidance system to provide more computer memory and greater accuracy, and to reduce vulnerability to a nuclear environment.
The Minuteman III Honeywell HDC-701 flight computer used NDRO (non-destructive read out) plated wire memory instead of rotating magnetic disk for primary storage. The Guidance Replacement Program (GRP), initiated in 1993, flight computer uses radiation-resistant semiconductor RAM.
Weapon system programs
Rivet MILE — Minuteman Life Extension Rivet ADD — Modification of MM II launch facilities to hold MM III missiles
The author Thomas Pynchon worked as a technical writer for the field support unit for the Minuteman missile, something that is probably reflected in the narrative of his novels The Crying of Lot 49 and Gravity's Rainbow. The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota has recently been created. It preserves a Launch Control Facility and a missile silo complex under the control of the National Park Service.
Mobile Minuteman program
While the silo-based Minuteman was in development, the United States Air Force released details about a rail-based counterpart. On 12 Oct 1959, details on the system, called the 'Mobile Minuteman', were released to the public. The system used the United States railroad network to help increase the system's survivability during nuclear attack. A performance test, code named Operation Big Star, was conducted
from 20 June to 27 August 1960 at Hill AFB, Utah. The United States Air Force then activated the 4062nd Mobile Missile Wing on 1 Dec 1960. The wing was to have three missile train squadrons, each with ten trains and each train carrying three missiles (30 missiles per squadron). Lack of support by the Kennedy Administration killed the Mobile Minuteman Program; on 1 Dec 1961, the Department of Defense deleted the three mobile missile squadrons from its budget. The USAF officially deactivated the 4062nd Mobile Missile Wing on 20 Feb 1962. The idea for a rail-based missile system was kept alive through the LGM-118A Peacekeeper Rail Garrison and the Soviet Union's SS-24 Scalpel rail-based ICBM.
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 preprogrammed 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 tops of modified Minuteman II ICBMs (LGM-30Fs) under the control of the 510th Strategic Missile Squadron located at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.
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.
Von Neumann Committee approved Ballistic Missile feasibility program R&D programs and contracts authorized ICBM improvements studies started Minuteman configuration studies started Minuteman R&D program authorized First R&D firing from silo - inert second and third stage First contract for operational wing facilities at Wing I Missile production
First all-up missile launch from pad at Eastern Test Range First missile launch from silo at Eastern Test Range First missile launch from Western Test Range Minuteman I operational flight turnover at Wing I First wing turnover at Wing I, Wing II turnover Force Mod program approved First motor static test firing to verify reliability Wing III and IV turnover New features approved Minuteman II flight test GIANT BOOST Wing V turnover Vulnerability improvements Minuteman fully operational at Wing II, III Wing IV turnover Minuteman III approval Aging surveillance program initiated Minuteman II operational at Wing VI ERCS deployed Squadron 20 turnover Force Mod at Wing IV Hard rock silo program started First Minuteman III R&D flight Force Mod rate decrease Force Mod at Wing I complete Service Star testing began for RSs First Minuteman III at Wing III (Hotel Flight/H-02) Upgrade silo and CDB programs started First MOM test at Wing VI Minuteman III dust program started Force Mod at Wing III completed
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Minuteman III on display at Air Force Museum
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Minuteman III deployed at Wing VI First dust hardened Minuteman III deployed at Wing VI Minuteman ordnance service life analysis program developed Responsibility for service life testing transferred to Ogden Air Logistics Center (OO-ALC), Hill AFB, Utah Upgrade silo and CDB IOC at Wing V Force Mod and upgrade silo completed at Wing II Last MOM at Wing III Full Force upgrade silo approved MK12A and Pave Pepper programs started SSAS was deployed for Minuteman II Upgrade silo and CDB completed at Wing V Upgrade silo and CDB start at Wing III Simulated electronics launch Minuteman (SELM) program started Minuteman bench test program concept developed by OO-ALC Minuteman III fully deployed Minuteman program management responsibility transfer (PMRT)
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Upgrade silo and CDB completed at Wing III Upgrade silo and CDB completed at Wing VI Long range service life analysis performed for propulsion system Hybrid explicit implemented for Minuteman III Minuteman II MGS vibration test program initiated New calibration schedule implemented to correct MGS startup transients Minuteman II Stage 3 lot 16 motor igniters replaced Minuteman III missile production terminated Inertial performance data began to be collected for guidance system fault isolation Began implementation of ILCS at Minuteman II wings GIP implemented at Minuteman III Thrust termination port investigation began Minuteman II Stage 2 motor remanufacturing program began to correct degraded liner/Minuteman III Stage 3 degraded liner investigation initiated USAF advisory board recommended that carbon-carbon nose tips be developed for MK12 RVs Upgrade silo and CDB completed at Wing VI Minuteman II accuracy/reliability investigation conducted VRSA replacement design started Diagnostic data package hardware delivered to provide re-entry/separation data for Minuteman II flights MGS electronics investigation completed Accuracy, Reliability, Supportability Improvement Program (ARSIP) program began Minuteman III guidance upgrade program implemented MK12A re-entry vehicle FOC Special operational test program began - Minuteman II Hardness critical items identified and procured Minuteman III MGS vibration test program initiated Special operational test program complete - accuracy improvements verified Minuteman Extended Survivable Power IOC GUP implemented for Minuteman III Rivet MILE (MInuteman Life Extension) began
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LGM-118A Peacekeeper deployment initiated Integrated Nuclear Effects Assessment (INEA) ARSIP implemented for Minuteman II Piece-parts manufacturing for diminished manufacturing sources Rivet MILE began Improved Minuteman Physical Security System (IMPSS) installation Minuteman III Stage 2 washout/Stage 3 replacement Comprehensive reliability investigations conducted Rapid Execution and Combat Targeting (REACT) program initiated Rocket Motor Transporter replacement Code Change Verifier replacement Transporter-Erector replacement
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Minuteman II removed from SIOP Minuteman II deactivation initiated MESP discontinued Rivet MILE completes IMPSS installation SRV Program initiated Rivet ADD initiated Missile Transporter replacement Missile Transporter (PT III) replacement GRP contract awarded PRP initial contracts awarded REACT consoles begin deployment Minuteman II deactivation complete BRAC decision to close Wing VI by 1998 REACT deployment complete Wing VI deactivation complete Wing VI Minuteman III's moved to Wing I AF awards ICBM Prime contract to TRW team for ICBM engineering First NS-50 MGS deployed
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Gibson, James N. Nuclear Weapons of the United States. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 1996. ISBN 0764300636. Encyclopedia; contains history of Minuteman ICBM. 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. Lloyd, A. (2000) Cold War Legacy: A Tribute to the Strategic Air Command: 1946-1992. New York: Turner Publishing. Neal, Roy. (1962) Ace in the Hole: The Story of the Minuteman Missile. New York: Doubleday & Company. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 627665. TRW Systems. (2001) Minuteman Weapon System History and Description. http://www.nukestrat.com/us/afn/Minuteman.pdf; Contains system history and basic descriptions. Zuckerman, E. (1984) The Day after World War III. New York: Viking Press.