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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

LGM-30 Minuteman III

Four hundred fifty [reduced from five hundred] Minuteman III missiles, are located at the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming; the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, Montana; and the 91st Missile Wing at Minot AFB, North Dakota. Each wing has three squadrons, each with 50 missiles controlled by five launch-control centers. Initially, Minuteman missiles were deployed at four bases in the north- central United States: Minot AFB and Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, and F. E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, as of 2010 with one to three warheads. The United States continues the Minuteman III LEP, with the aim of keeping MMIII in service until 2030.

The United States has “deMIRVed”3 all deployed ICBMs, so that each MMIII is single warhead. In the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the Obama administration announced its plans “deMIRV” all deployed ICBMs, so that each Minuteman III ICBM has only one nuclear warhead. (A “MIRVed” ballistic missile carries Multiple Independently- targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs). “DeMIRVing” reduced each missile to a single warhead). Air Force Global Strike Command met a major milestone 16 June 2014, when maintainers at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, removed the last multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle in the Air Force intercontinental ballistic missile inventory from a Minuteman III. By 2018 DoD will place 50 currently deployed ICBM launchers into a non-deployed status by removing the ICBMs from these silos. Non-deployed ICBM launchers include four non-deployed test launchers. Under New START, the United States will reduced to 400 deployed ICBMs. The Department of Defense will continue the Minuteman III Life Extension Program with the aim of keeping the fleet in service to 2030, as mandated by Congress.

Operational since 1968, the model "G" differs from the "F" in the third stage and reentry system. The third stage is larger and provides more thrust for a heavier payload. The payload, the Mark 12 reentry system, consists of a payload mounting platform, penetration aids, three reentry vehicles (RVs) and an aerodynamic shroud. The shroud protects the RVs during the early phases of flight. The mounting platform is also a "payload bus" and contains a restartable hypergolic rocket engine powered by hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. With this configuration, the RVs can be independently aimed at different targets within the missile's overall target area or "footprint". This concept is known as Multiple Independently Targeted Reentry Vehicles (MIRV).

The LGM-30 Minuteman missiles are dispersed in hardened silos to protect against attack and connected to an underground launch control center through a system of hardened cables. Launch crews, consisting of two officers, perform around-the-clock alert in the launch control center. A variety of communication systems provide the National Command Authorities with highly reliable, virtually instantaneous direct contact with each launch crew. Should command capability be lost between the launch control center and remote missile launch facilities, specially-configured EC-135 airborne launch control center aircraft automatically assume command and control of the isolated missile or missiles. Fully qualified airborne missile combat crews aboard airborne launch control center aircraft would execute the NCA orders.

Peacekeeper missile deployment affected the Minuteman force. As part of the strategic modernization program undertaken in 1982, Strategic Air Command deployed fifty Peacekeeper missiles in modified Minuteman III silos assigned to the 400th Strategic Missile Squadron, 90th Strategic Missile Wing, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. Conversion began on 3 January 1986, when the first Minuteman came off alert, and the phaseout of the 400th SMS's Minuteman IIIs was completed on 11 April 1988.

The current Minuteman force is structured in a wing squadron, and flight concept. Each missile wing consists of three or four squadrons. Missile wings at F.E. Warren AFB, Grand Forks AFB, and Minot AFB have three MM III squadrons, totaling 150 MM III per wing. Malmstrom AFB had four MM III squadrons totaling 200 missiles once Grand Forks AFB deactivated. Each missile squadron has five flights interconnected by a network of hardened, buried electronic cables. A missile flight consists of an Missile Alert Facility (MAF) electronically tied to 10 Launch Facilities (LFs). The LFs are located 3 to 16 miles from the MAF, with each LF situated 3 to 9 miles apart. These facilities are interconnected by a redundant network of hardened, buried cables, or a single path of hardened, buried cables plus a medium frequency radio (Grand Forks AFB and Squadron IV at Malmstrom AFB). Any MAF within a squadron can monitor status, command tests and launch any of the missiles within its own squadron. Also, the Airborne Launch Control Center (ALCC), under restricted conditions, can launch any missile within the Minuteman Force. Each MAF is staffed 24 hours a day by a missile combat crew of two officers.

Strategic Air Command expected Minuteman to play an important role in the command's force structure through the year 2020. To ensure the reliability and maintainability of the Minuteman force into the new century, the Air Force initiated a major Minuteman upgrade and modification program. Rivet MILE (Minuteman Integrated Life Extension Program) began 1 April 1985 at the 341st Strategic Missile Wing, Malmstrom AFB, Montana. This joint Strategic Air Command and Air Force Logistics Command effort was the largest single missile logistics program ever undertaken within the ICBM program.

Through state-of-the-art improvements, the Minuteman system has evolved to meet new challenges and assume new missions. Modernization programs have resulted in new versions of the missile, expanded targeting options, significantly improved accuracy and survivability. Today's Minuteman weapon system is the product of almost 35 years of continuous enhancement.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2018 13:21:48 ZULU