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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

LGM-118A Peacekeeper Rail Garrison

In 1971, the Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC) submitted a required operational oapability (ROC) which Identified the need for a new land-based, mobile, inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) system. This system would counter the Soviet development of like ICBM systems, provide greater survivability for the land portion of the strategic triad (land-based ICBMs, manned strategic bombers, and submarine launched ICBMs), and eventually replace the aging Minuteman ICBM fleet. In 1976, the Air Force began the full-scale development of the PeaceKeeper missile (so named In 1983 by President Reagan), but they had no direction for an operational basing mode.

During the Peacekeeper missile development, Headquarters, United States Air Force (HO USAF) and the Department of Defense (DoD) struggled to define the optimal basing system. Survivability was a paramount Issue. Presidential commissions and DoD provided many operational concepts; however, they could not achieve consensus. Congressional and public arguments, environmental concerns, and extreme costs were just a few of the many variables which clouded the decisionmaking process.

In January 1983, President Reagan established the bipartisan Commission on Strategic Forces, also referred to as the Scowcroft Commission, to review the strategic forces modernization program of the United States. One of the Scowcroft Commission's recommendations was to deploy 100 Peacekeeper missiles in Minuteman silos in order to hold hardened Soviet targets at risk and promote arms talks. Congress and the President endorsed this recommendation. Accordingly, the Air Force prepared and filed, in January 1984, an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the deployment of 100 Peacekeeper missiles in modified Minuteman silos at F.E. Warren AFB. Later, in the 1986 Department of Defense (DOD) Authorization Act, Congress limited the deployment of Peacekeeper missiles in Minuteman silos to 50 and asked the President to propose a more survivable basing mode for the other 50 Peacekeeper missiles.

On 19 December 1986, the White House announced President Ronald Reagan's approval to develop a rail system for basing part of the Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) force. President Reagan issued National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 252, directing the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) of Peacekeeper Rail Garrison. This weapon system formed part of the President's ICBM modernization program. Accordingly, HQ USAF issued a program management directive (PMD) to implement the NSDD.

The principal mission of the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison weapon system was to deter nuclear and conventional attacks against the United States, its allies, and any nation whose security is vital to the US’ interests. The weapon system was intended to combine the capabilities of the Peacekeeper missile, such as payload, range, and accuracy, with the survivability and flexibility inherent in the Rail Garrison basing approach. The Air Force believed that the survivability associated with the dispersal of trains over a large geographical area would strongly contribute to Soviet uncertainty in achieving their war aims without receiving unacceptable damage in return.

The Peacekeeper Rat1 Garrison weapon system consisted of Peacekeeper missiles deployed in a Rail Garrison basing mode, together with operational and maintenance support equipment and facilities. A force of 50 missiles would be placed on 25 trains, each carrying 2 Peacekeeper missiles. The trains would be parked inside train alert shelters in secure garrisons at the main operating base at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, and at, existing Air Force bases throughout the continental United States, with up to 4 trains at each garrison. About 2,600 SAC personnel would be needed to operate and maintain the system.

Within the garrisons, the trains and missiles would be protected by double fences, perimeter detection systems, and entry control procedures. The missiles would be kept on the trains in continuous strategic alert, and, if necessary, the missiles could be promptly launched from within the train alert shelters.

Peacekeeper trains from 7 garrisons could be dispersed within 24 hours to any point in the continental United States rail network having suitable track. Once dispersed, the trains would be selfsufficient and can remain operational indefinitely with resupply and maintenance. Outside the garrisons, the trains would use their own security systems and security personnel to prevent unauthorized access to the missile and its nuclear warheads.

Missile trains would remain in garrisons on a day-to-day basis. In the event of national need, the Peacekeeper missiles would move onto the nation’s railroad network, only during times of national need (for example, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and the 1973 Middle East War). One potential Air Force operational scenario called for the first train to be deployed from each garrison within 15 minutes after receiving and authenticating a dispersal directive. Remaining trains would be deployed at 2-hour intervals and dispersed within 12 hours. Each train would be staffed with a 29 person crew consisting of 1 train commander, 3 train crew members, 4 combat crew personnel, 15 security personnel, and 6 maintenance personnel.

Each Peacekeeper train would consist of two locomotives, two security cars, a launch control car, two missile launch cars, a maintenance car, and several supplemental cars as required for operations. The locomotive and the chassis for each train car would be commercially available equipment, modified as necessary to support the Rail Garrison design. The Peacekeeper missile, the canister, and the operational support equipment would be housed in the missile launch car. A launch eject gas generator providing pressurized gas below the first stage would eject the missile from the canister, and the first stage would ignite after ejection. This manner of launch is referred to as “cold launch” and is the way in which Peacekeeper missiles are launched from a silo.

While dispersed, each train would operate independently of other Peacekeeper trains and remain under the command of the Air Force train commander. Command -ad control of the Peacekeeper missiles would be maintained by a two-person missile combat crew, located in the launch control car. The crew would be in constant contact with a higher authority and would maintain the capability of reacting to directives.

The Peacekeeper trains would be equipped with their own security systems and carry well-trained and appropriately armed security personnel. The trains would also be equipped with a variety of sensors to detect direct threats to the train and to provide 24-hour surveillance of the surrounding areas.

Once dispersed, the Peacekeeper trains would continue to operate on the national rail network until directed by a higher authority to return to the garrison. Supplies such as fuel, food, and water would be carried onboard the train. When necessary, resupply would be accomplished in a variety of ways, including local purchases, servicing by mobile servicing vehicles, and servicing from military installations located in the train's dispersal area.

In May 1988 the program office awarded a $167 million contract to Westinghouse Electric Corporation for development of the missile launch car. The launch control car would contain all the functional capabilities of a Peacekeeper in Minuteman silo stationary launch control center such as a launch control system and a communication system. Communications between the launch control car and higher authority would be available, and a full complement of communications links is planned between the system and SAC elements. The launch control system performs critical functions of targeting, launch authorization, and launch, as well as status monitoring. Targeting operations and launch control processing would be essentially identical to Peacekeeper in silos. In May 1988 the program office awarded a $162 million contract to Rockwell International for developing the lawwh control and security cars, as well as the train security system.

The April 1990 initial production decision was to be supported by an early operational assessment prepared by the Air Force Test and Evaluation Center. However, an Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center official advised us that, in the absence of systems level operational testing, the scope of the early operational assessment would be limited and that the primary thrust of that document would be an appraisal of the schedule for providing operationally representative systems for the operational testing required to support the March 1992 full-rate production decision. The Air Force considered the Rail Garrison program as a low technical risk because it views the program as basically an engineering effort to integrate proven missile systems into the existing rail industry.

Dispersal of MX on strategic warning requires dispersal onto the public rail network, which could cause problems. Air Force officials did not consider it likely that such dispersal would interfere with the operations of the rail lines, since the number of trains carrying the MX would be such a small fraction of the total activity on the rail, and since they would only be moving periodically. However, depending on the situation, the decision to disperse might be difficult--for instance, if an Administration did not want to alarm or involve the public at a particular time.

Development of the rail garrison deployment system was terminated in 1991 as Cold War tensions eased. Major contractors for the rail garrison system were Boeing Aerospace Corp., Westinghouse Marine Division and Rockwell International Autonetics.

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Page last modified: 17-09-2021 18:45:30 ZULU