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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

490th Missile Squadron [490th MS]

The 490th has a proud and distinguished history dating back to its beginning in India on 15 September 1942, when the 490th Bombardment, Squadron (Medium) was activated. The first combat mission was flown on 18 February 1943 in B-25 Mitchell bombers bearing the now famous "Skull and Wings" insignia, an adaptation of the personal insignia of the commanding officer at that time, Major James A. Philpott. The squadron's aircraft bombed bridges, locomotives, railroad yards, and other targets to delay the movement of supplies to the Japanese troops fighting in northern Burma. Many bridge-bombing missions were initially unsuccessful. High-level, low-level, dive bombing, and skip-bombing all proved ineffective against these difficult targets. The 490th changed all that on New Years Day, 1944, when Major Robert A. Erdin, squadron leader for the day, accidentally discovered a very effective method for destroying bridges. Once perfected, his hop-bombing technique became so successful that the 490th earned the nickname "Burma Bridge Busters" from the commanding general of the Tenth Air Force. In the words of one war correspondent, the 490th became "one of the most specialized bombardment squadrons in the world." After the war ended, the squadron came home to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, where it was deactivated on 2 November 1945. During its three years of activities, the fightin' 490th destroyed 191 major bridges in Burma, Thailand, and southwest China; received 1280 individual citations; and was awarded two Distinguished Unit Citations. These achievements cost the squadron 185 crew members killed in action.

The 490th Bombardment Squadron was redesignated "Light" on 11 March 1947 and, on April 4th of the same year, the unit was activated in the reserve at Dow Field, Maine, as a component of the 341st Bombardment Group in the Air Defense Command. The 490th flew the AT-6, AT-11, B-25, and B-26 on weekends. On 27 June 1949, the 341st with its four squadrons was deactivated at Westover AFB, Massachusetts, and the 490th went into retirement for a second time. This retirement lasted more than six years.

On 1 September 1955 the 490th Bombardment Squadron (medium) was activated at Abilene AFB, Texas, as a part of the 341st Bombardment Wing, 15th Air Force, Strategic Air Command (SAC). Equipped with the new B-47 Stratojet, the squadron began flight training in March of the following year. For more than a year the 490th engaged in routine training operations with primary emphasis on qualifying all crews as "combat ready." Late in 1957 the squadron participated in a simulated combat mission to Royal AFS, Chelveston, England. They flew in three waves, 24 hours apart, from their base in Texas (renamed Dyess). While overseas, the 490th made several simulated attacks on targets in Great Britain. In early 1958 the squadron deployed to Anderson AB, Guam, for more training. Flights were made from there to Okinawa and to Japan. In July 1959, the 490th began participation in the operation of an alert force on station in the United Kingdom. The wing deployed six B-47s to Greenham Common RAF Station with three more rotating every week thereafter until April 1961. The old 490th insignia was never painted on the side of a B-47. The "Skull and Wings" emblem was replaced by a shield in azure and gray with a sword between two lightening bolts piercing a target, This new insignia was approved by the Air Force on 11 July 1956. It is also significant to note that the official emblem of the 341st Bombardment Wing (now Missile Wing) was selected in 1959 from a design submitted by Captain Rutherford R. Held, a B-47 crew member of the 490th. Effective 25 June 19G1, the 490th Bombardment Squadron was deactivated for the last time. The space age had arrived, and with it, the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile.

The Minuteman missile is a three-stage, solid propellant, inertially guided intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range of over 7,000 nautical miles. Four models of the missile have been deployed since the first sortie achieved "strat alert" in 1962: the LGM-30A and LGM-308 (Minuteman I), LGM-30F (Minuteman II), and LGM-30G (Minuteman III). Each successive model has been an improvement over the previous missile and various modifications and upgrade programs have enabled the latest technology to be employed to keep the weapon system viable. Most of the 490th was initially equipped with Minuteman I "A" models; however, before the squadron had received its full complement, improvements and refinements had resulted in the production of the newer and better "B" model missile. The last eight missiles emplaced in 490th launch facilities (LFs) were "B" models, sporting a second stage motor chamber made of titanium that was 2.2 feet longer than the 53.7 foot "A" model's steel chamber.

The 490th is unique in that it is the only MS to have deployed both "A" and "B" model missiles. The first major upgrade to the weapon system at Malmstrom began in 1967 with the implementation of the Force Modernization Program. During this modification, the 490th's 42 Minuteman I "A" models and 8 Minuteman I "B" models were replaced by 50 Minuteman II "F" models. The 490th had the distinction of possessing the last "A" model on strategic alert until it was removed from its LF on 12 February 1969. The Force Modernization Program was completed at Malmstrom when Kilo Flight was returned to the wing on 27 May 1969. The second major upgrade commenced in April 1977. Known as the Improved Launch Control System (ILCS) Program, this project enhanced the effectiveness and survivability of the weapon system by updating arid providing electromagnetic pulse (EMP) protection to various system hardware and software. This program was completed on 1 March 1979 at a cost of 365 million dollars.

On 28 September 1991, the end of an era was marked as President George Bush ordered all Minuteman II missiles and strategic bombers removed from Strategic Alert. This was to be the end of service for the Minuteman II missile but marked the beginning of yet another major modernization effort far the 490th. In 1992, Malmstrom began its conversion to Minuteman III missiles. This process was scheduled to take several years. Therefore, the primary mission of the 490th was to deposture the Minuteman lls. In March 1995, the 490th became the first squadron at Malmstrom AFB to begin the deployment of the Rapid Execution And Combat Targeting (REACT) system. With REACT, Missile Combat Crews have a dramatically improved command and control system. As the name implies, REACT has provided crews with a modernized and high speed interface with the weapon system allowing rapid response to any direction from higher authorities. Additionally, Malmstrom and the 490th are continuing the conversion to Minuteman IU missiles begun in 1992.

In January 1996, the first of fifty Minuteman III "G" model missiles was emplaced, a momentous event heralding a new era in the distinguished history of the 490th. With new missiles, an advanced command and control system, and revitalized facilities, the men and women of the 490th are ready to carry on the tradition of the Burma Bridge Busters well into the 21st Century.

The Minuteman missile is maintained on alert in an unmanned, hardened underground launch facility (LF) approximately 80 feet deep, 12 feet in diameter, and covered by a 100-ton blast door which is blown See prior to missile launch. A launcher support building (LSB) buried near the launch tube contains environmental control equipment and standby power sources. An electronic surveillance system is used at the LF to detect intruders. The missiles are deployed in "circular" flights of ten missiles controlled by a single, centrally located launch control center (LCC) manned by a Missile Combat Crew. The LCC contains all equipment needed by the crew to control and monitor the missile and the LF. Each LCC is separated from the others by a minimum of 14 miles and is buried at a depth of 40 to 100 feet below grade. The missile alert facility (MAF) topside contains living quarters and support equipment for the facility meager (FM), cook, and security personnel. The 490 MS consists of 50 LFs, located at least three miles from adjacent missiles for survivability, arranged in five flights (Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, and Oscar), all redundantly interconnected by a buried, hardened cable network which connect them with the LCCs. Each LCC continually monitors the operational status and security of the ten missiles and LFs in its own flight and has the capability to control, monitor, and launch all 50 missiles in the squadron. Launch, if directed, must be commanded by at least two different LCCs in the squadron or by the airborne launch control center (ALCC) aboard a modified EC-135.

In March of 1996, the 490th became the first squadron at Malmstrom to have an alert facility complete the Alert Image program, a Space Command initiative to improve Missile Alert Facilities throughout the missile force. Mike-01 underwent extensive renovations which not only improved living conditions for topside personnel but increased the squadron's combat capability as well.

Prior to 1994, the squadron consisted primarily of Missile Combat Crew (MCC) members, facility managers, and command and support personnel. In May of 1994, the organization grew by 200 personnel with the addition of security police and electro-mechanical maintenance teams (EMT). The addition of these specialties to the squadron fostered a better relationship between the men and women who had always worked together in the missile field. However, on 15 Jun 95, the EMT area returned to their original maintenance squadron to improve their logistical situation. Then, in February 1996, the facilities chefs were moved to the squadron, completing the team of professionals that currently complete the 490 MS mission.

The Missile Combat Crew required to man each Minuteman LCC is composed of two launch officers, the Missile Combat Crew Commander (MCCC) and Deputy Missile Combat Crew Commander (DMCCC). Crew members serve a four year stabilized tour which begins when they are certified "combat, ready" by the Wing Commander. Alert tours run for 24 consecutive hours, excluding driving time to and from the MAF. Once again, the 490th distinctive in that its members have the longest average driving distance to and from alert of any MS in the Air Force. During alert tours, minimum rest/sleep periods are approximately four to six hours in duration. The remainder of the tour is devoted to inspection, weapon system monitoring, and other alert duties.

The crew monitors missile status at all times as well as all maintenance activities, operations, emergencies, etc., within their flight area. They have custody of all mated reentry systems (RS) in their flight and are responsible for the proper implementation of applicable procedures to ensure that the missile and all pertinent subsystems are maintained in a state of constant readiness. In addition to pulling six to eight alerts per month, a crew member completes an average of 15 hours of training and testing per month, including weapon system operation, Emergency War Order (EWO), and practice sessions in an operational mock-up of an LCC, called the Missile Procedures Trainer (MPT), which presents problems that closely simulate real-world situations and actual weapon system situations. Crew members typically arrive as second lieutenants and begin duties as a deputy, upgrade to commander when they make first lieutenant about two years later, and leave as a captain with about 200 to 300 alerts to their credit.

Each MAF in the squadron is a "Home-Away-From-Home" for six security police, one FM, and one facility chef. The security police team consists of two response forces. Each response force works 12-hour shifts for a 3-day period. They are tasked with the awesome responsibility of providing security for the MAF and the ten LFs in the flight. The facility managers continue to maintain the 30-year-old facilities with pride and professionalism. Meanwhile, facility chefs strive to keep morale high through their performance in the kitchen.

The mission of the Minuteman Hardened and Dispersed Weapon System is to deliver weapons against strategic targets from launch facilities in the continental United States. The primary mission of each alert duty crew is the same: be prepared at any moment, upon receipt of valid execution orders initiated by the President of the United States, to launch one or more intercontinental ballistic missiles against enemy targets. The missile crew in effect responds directly to the President. There is no intermediate or intervening authority.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 03:40:37 ZULU