Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Malmstrom AFB
Great Falls International Airport
4728'N 11122'W

The 341st Space Wing is the host unit at Malmstrom AFB; major tenants include the 819th RED HORSE Squadron, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Civil Air Patrol, and Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office. Malmstrom AFB makes an important contribution to the economy of the region through both direct employment and purchases local businesses. The presence of the base provides stability to the city and the region. Malmstrom AFB has a total economic impact of over $259 million per year on a 50-mile radius that includes the counties of Cascade, Judith Basin, Lewis and Clark, Teton, Pondera, and Choteau.

In 1939, the Great Falls Airport commission appealed to Harry H. Woodring, Secretary of War, to locate an Air Corps squadron at Great Falls, Montana. In 1941, the Civil Aeronautics Authority provided the money for the development of the Great Falls Municipal Airport. In May 1942, construction began on an Army Air corps base six miles east of Great Falls. The base was known as East Base.

While the base was assigned to 2nd AF, numerous bombardment groups were trained at Great Falls. Two of these bombardment groups, the 385th and 390th, went on to participate in decisive raids over Germany that opened the door for Allied daylight precision bombing. These bomb groups were trained in successive groups from November 1942 to October 1943.

On Aug. 13, 1948, the 1701st was deactivated and replaced by both the 1300th Air Base Wing and the 582nd Air Resupply and Communications Squadron. This splitting of a complex organization into more manageable parts reflected the new Air Force way of thinking and resulted in the organizational structure which still exists in some ways today.

Even as new weapon systems were being developed and debates raged over the effectiveness of the manned bomber, the Strategic Air Command activated the 407th Strategic Fighter Wing to provide protection for the bombers. SAC then ordered the 407th to Great Falls AFB. The base had just completed a $2 million runway in July 1952, and with its modernized facilities would provide an excellent strategic air base. In January 1954, SAC replaced MATS as the command in charge of the base.

Col. Lester Harris arrived as the new wing commander, accompanied by Col. Einar Axel Malmstrom, his vice wing commander. The C-54 workhorses of yesterday were replaced with F-84F and G fighters. More units continued to arrive at Great Falls AFB. In March 1954, the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, with its fleet of KB-29 aircraft, began operations at the base.

On Aug. 21, 1954, the history of Great Falls AFB took on new meaning when a plane crash claimed the life of Colonel Malmstrom. In the short period of his tenure as vice wing commander, Colonel Malmstrom endeared himself to the local community. Saddened by the loss, the people of Great Falls began a drive to rename the base after him. On June 15, 1956, Great Falls AFB was officially dedicated as Malmstrom AFB, and the 4061st Air Refueling Wing arrived with its contingent of KC-97 tankers the next year. Malmstrom's mission changed again when SAC realized that fighter escorts would not be able to keep up with the new B-52 bombers.

Malmstrom officially entered the ICBM age with the activation of the 341st Strategic Missile Wing from Dyess AFB, Texas, where it had previously operated as the 341st Bombardment Wing. The 341 SMW and Malmstrom AFB became the nation's first "Ace in the Hole," dubbed by President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crises. The wing has Minuteman missiles spread across 23,000 square miles of Montana. The 10th, 12th, and 490th Strategic Missile Squadron were equipped with the Minuteman II, and the 564th has the Minuteman III.

With the rapid development of the three-stage, solid-fuel Minuteman I missile in the late 1950s SAC began searching for sites to deploy this revolutionary weapon. Because Malmstrom's location placed most strategic targets in the Soviet Union within range of Minuteman, the base was a logical choice.

On December 23, 1959, the Air Force Ballistic Missile Committee approved the selection of Malmstrom AFB to host the first Minuteman ICBM base. Although the newly formed Corps of Engineers Ballistic Missile Construction Office handled the design and supervised construction of the planned 15 control sites and 150 silos, the initial ground work required advance engineering, site feasibility studies, surveys, soil and foundation investigations, determination of utility sources, and finally land acquisition. These tasks fell on the Seattle District of the Corps of Engineers. The land acquisition, involving some 5,200 tracts scattered across an area of 20,000 square miles of north-central Montana, amounted to the largest for any single project under-taken by the Corps. At its peak, the Corps employed up to 80 people at its real estate office to deal with the approximately 1,378 owners of the desired parcels. Modifications in silo design required the District to renegotiate easements with the landowners on 12 different occasions over the 4-year span of the project.

In less than three percent of the cases, the government acquired the land through condemnation. Once construction commenced, tempers were tested as fences were cut, trenches were left open in cattle pastures, crops were destroyed, and water and power supplies were interrupted. Yet despite these problems, most of the local population understood the importance of the project to national security and they cooperated.

A joint venture of the George A. Fuller Company and the Del E. Webb Corporation won the construction contract with a bid of $61.7 million. The Fixed Price Incentive Contract was unique, featuring provisions for a target cost, target profit, and a formula for determining the final price and final profit. With cost overruns projected due to expected design modifications and unanticipated surprises, the Corps of Engineers Ballistic Missile Construction Office imposed a system in which excessive costs would be split, with the contractor picking up 25 percent of the tab. Using this formula, the final project cost would come to $79,284,385.

The March 16, 1961, groundbreaking ceremonies featured an interesting arrangement as key state and local politicians, and military, contractor, and labor leaders gathered on stage at the base theater. At the prescribed moment, eight of these officials threw switches, setting off explosive charges out on the plains. Each official received his switch as a memento.

As predicted, design changes occasionally slowed progress as did unanticipated high water tables, which required additional pumping capacity at the excavation sites. An electrician's strike from November 1 through 12, 1961, and spring storms in 1962 also hindered progress. Still, on December 15, contractors completed work on the 10th silo, turning the silo over to the Air Force for finishing and missile installation. During construction, six workers were killed.

Home of the oldest Minuteman strategic missile squadron, Malmstrom also became home to the youngest, when in August 1964, the Air Force announced plans to build an additional 50 silos on the Montana prairie to house Minuteman II missiles. On February 23, 1965, Morrison Knudsen Company and Associates won the bid to build the additional silos. Construction started 2 weeks later. Manpower peaked in September 1965, with 1,593 men working on the sites. During construction, there were 7 work stoppages, which cost 8,808 man-days lost. Overall, the project managers could boast of a good safety record as there were 12 lost time incidents and only 1 fatality.

As construction of these new silos proceeded through 1966, the 564th SMS stood up on April 1, 1966. Just over a year later America's 1,OOOth Minuteman missile would be in place and on alert at Malmstrom. This milestone marked the completion of Minuteman deployment by the United States.

In 1987, Malmstrom hosted a prototype of a small ICBM mobile launcher. Testing conducted at Malmstrom evaluated this platform's capability to support the Midgetman missile.

On January 5, 1988, Malmstrom gained its first flying wing since the 4061st was inactivated in 1961. The 301st Air Refueling Wing is responsible for the operation of KC-135R Stratotankers, which refuel fighter, bomber and transport aircraft worldwide.

Malmstrom entered another era on July 7, 1989, when the 40th Air Division was reactivated. The 40th Air Division began as the 40th Bombardment Wing on January 15, 1943, at MacDill Field, Fla. After several inactivation's and reactivations, the division called Malmstrom its home for 2 years before being inactivated on June 14, 1991, as a result of an Air Force-wide force structure reorganization. Under this reorganization, the refueling wing became the host unit and the missile wing became an associate unit and renamed the 341st Missile Wing.

With the deactivation of the Strategic Air Command June 1, 1992, Malmstrom became an Air Mobility Command base. The 301st was renamed the 43rd Air Refueling Wing and reporting to 15th Air Force, located at March AFB, CA. The 341st MW came under the Air Combat Command and reported directly to 20th Air Force located at F.E. Warren AFB, WY. The Missile Wing moved under Air Force Space Command located at Peterson AFB, CO., in mid 1993 under a move that merged missile and space operations under one command.

The 341st MW assumed host unit responsibilities from the 43rd ARW July 1 1994. Under a restructuring move the 43rd ARW was redesignated as the 43rd Air Refueling Group when part of the 43rd ARW moved to Fairchild AFB, WA.

Malmstrom AFB is located east of the City of Great Falls in west central Montana in a section of rolling hills and plains about 75 miles east of the Rocky Mountains.

Malmstrom AFB is situated on approximately 4,120 acres within the boundaries of Cascade County, Montana. The base is located south of the Missouri River approximately 75 miles east of the Rocky Mountains and 2 miles east of the City of Great Falls. Malmstrom is 120 miles south of the Canadian border and 180 miles northwest of Billings, the largest city in Montana.

The base encompasses approximately 1,279 ha (3,159 ac) of Government-owned land. An additional 182 ha (449 ac) of restrictive easements are held on adjacent lands. Associated with the base is the 341st Missile Wing missile complex, which includes 4 missile squadrons with 20 missile alert facilities, and 200 launch facilities distributed throughout a 60,865 sq km (23,500sq mi) area in north-central Montana. The missile complex is known as the Malmstrom deployment area. Land use inside the base boundaries includes a military airfield, operational, industrial and administrative facilities to support the base, the airfield and the various missile sites under the control of Malmstrom and military housing areas.

Malmstrom's developed areas lie primarily in the northwestern third of the installation, bordered by the City of Great Falls to the west. The airfield is the dominant land use feature, with light industrial and aircraft operations and maintenance immediately flanking it. Open space dominates the eastern side of the base along with the Weapons Storage Area. Other land uses in the cantonment area are generally located to the west of the airfield.

Malmstrom AFB's main development consists of two distinct land use areas. Accompanied housing consumes a large area in the northwestern vicinities, while the remainder of the cantonment is characterized by a heterogeneous land use pattern. Immediately west of the airfield, aircraft operations and maintenance and industrial land uses are the dominant activities. Base outdoor recreation facilities are scattered throughout the base in areas adjacent to Family Housing and also south of the WSA on the east side of the base.

Current safety constraints at Malmstrom AFB result from airfield safety siting criteria and explosives safety siting criteria. Applicable airfield safety clearance criteria are defined in Air Force Manual (AFMAN) 32-2311, Airfield and Heliport Planning and Design Criteria. AFMAN 32-2311 outlines detailed planning and design criteria and standards for airfields; these criteria and standards include dimensions, clearances, and grades for airfield operational areas described above. Although the runway at Malmstrom AFB is not operational, the installation should continue to observe the constraints imposed by these criteria to protect the airfield and surrounding areas for mission expansion. It is also important to retain compatible land uses within the areas identified in the latest Air Installation Compatible Use Zone Study by working with the City of Great Falls and Cascade County to prevent encroachment of the airfield.

The remaining safety considerations at the installation revolve around designated areas constrained by explosive safety-quantity distance (Q/D) zones. These clear zones include the area within a safety arc surrounding an explosives storage facility.

The Q/D zones at Malmstrom AFB encompass the following areas: a suspect vehicle parking areas, hot cargo and holding pads, explosives storage facilities, and a bombing simulation area. Most of these areas focus on the Weapons Storage Area (WSA) on the east side of the runway away from the main cantonment area. The Q/D zones cover a significant portion of the airfield and adjacent lands; existing land uses in the arcs are mission necessary functions generally consisting of industrial operations. Malmstrom AFB should continue to employ safety measures and practice sound land use planning to avoid unnecessary facility siting and the heavy concentration of personnel within the Q/D zones.

The 43rd Air Refueling Group consisting of 12 KC-135R aircraft was transferred to MacDill Air Force Base as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission decision. This action included closure of the runway and removal of emergency fire/rescue crews at Malmstrom. After December 31, 1996, the total workforce was 4,151, with 477 civilians and 3,674 military (officers and enlisted). However, the RED HORSE heavy construction mobility force was stationed at Malmstrom beginning in Fiscal Year 1998. They use the Great Falls International Airport for takeoffs and landings. The squadron manning is approximately 404 personnel. Of this total, 284 will be active duty Air Force personnel and 120 will be Montana Air National Guard.

The Malstrom Command Center (Building 500) was originally a Semi-Automatic Ground Environment facility, which served as an alternate North American Air Defense Command Center during the Cold War.

The airfield at Malmstrom was, until the end of 1996, an active military flightline with numerous landings and departures daily. The runway was closed on December 31, 1996, for aircraft operations; however, helicopter operations in support of the base's missile mission continue. The airfield at Malmstrom was constructed as a Class B airfield consisting of a single 3,500 by 61 m (11,500 by 200 ft) runway with a 61 m by 3650 m (200 ft by 12,000 ft) runway safety area, a 380 m (1,250 ft) blast pad distance, a parallel taxiway, adjoining aircraft parking areas, and six interconnecting taxiways. The runway orientation is 03/21, with most aircraft using 21. The highest elevator is 1,075 m (3,526 ft). Due to the base realignment and closure study, the flying mission has been relocated, and the runway was closed to fixed-wing operations the end of calendar year 1996. Since closure of the airfield, the USAF has no plans or budget to operate the runway.

The primary existing hazard of the flight vehicles involves the close proximity of the runway to the city of Great Falls, as well as several high risk military facilities including the Weapons Storage Area, a missile booster storage site, two bulk fuel storage sites, and several base housing units. The Accident Potential Zone (APZ) is divided into three different areas around the runway. The Clear Zone (CZ) is 915 m (3,000 ft) wide by 915 m (3,000 ft) long and is limited to utility lines, roadways, and agricultural uses. The APZ I is a 915 m (3,000 ft) wide by 1,524 m (5,000 ft) long area immediately beyond the CZ that allows for limited industrial and retail activities, outdoor recreation, and limited agricultural activities. The APZ II is a continuation of APZ I and is 915 m (3,000 ft) wide and 2135 m (7,000 ft) long and excludes facilities for public gatherings. There has been no encroachment into the CZ or the APZs by on- or off-base activities.

The airfield is equipped with a jet fuel hydrant refueling system that was completed in 1993. The system consists of one truck fill stand with eight offloading headers for bulk fuel delivery, 10.1 million L (2.7 million gal) storage, an inactive 21-hydrant distribution system, and 1.6 million L (0.4 million gal) in operating storage tanks. There is significant excess capacity based upon the number of aircraft that had been previously assigned (21 KC-135s), but the system is not capable of further expansion.

The Defense Integrated Switched Network provides a dedicated high-speed information system to support command and control communication requirements of Air Force Major Command centers. A terrestrially-based network, the Defense Integrated Switched Network integrates voice, data, and video. There is also an Automatic Digital Network using 4.8 to 9.6 kilobytes per second and a Defense Data Network to provide interpretability, survivability, and reliability for data communications.

The city of Great Falls is located approximately 0.6 km (0.4 mi) to the west of the base. Great Falls is one of the largest cities in Montana. It contains approximately 59,500 of Cascade County's 81,200 residents and serves as the county seat and civic and commerce center of the area. The closest communities to the north, east, and south are: Carter (39 km/ 24 mi), Belt (26 km/16 mi), and Tracy (8 km/5 mi), respectively.


ICBM silos

60k base map

160k base map




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