Captain Swoop's Virtual ICBM Tour presents...
Dispatch To A North Dakota ICBM Site!

The following section of this VR Tour will take you through a fictional "Missile Pull" at a Missile Launch Facility "Bravo - 20", located in the missile field controlled by Grand Forks AFB, ND, just a few miles south of the U.S. - Canadian border. For the purposes of this VR Tour, you will occupy the place of an EMT Team Chief, just to ensure you see the whole Missile Pull operation, from start to finish. This job, which involves complete removal of the ICBM and its payload, was a routine task (if you can call moving a 60 foot stick of dynamite and 3 nuclear warheads, "routine") that is no longer performed there - because the missiles at the base have now been decommissioned.

The "Sunflake and Warrior" symbol above was the graphic adopted by the base, which housed both a Bomber Wing and a Missile Wing, to represent the "Warriors Of The North". Today, only the Bomber Wing there is still active. A unit based at Minot AFB, to the west, is responsible for all maintenance activities related to the shutdown of the missile field at Grand Forks, now.

If you are ready to move on, click one of the buttons below. Or, for a little more information on what you will encounter, scroll down and read on....

The 321st Missile Wing, in its heyday, consisted of 150 LGM30-G Minuteman III missiles with their associated silos called Launch Facilities (LF's) and 15 controlling Launch Control Facilities (LCF's). Each LCF, is made up of a Surface Building housing living quarters, support facilities, and security personnel, and the Launch Control Center (LCC), which is buried below ground, and houses the Missile Crew. From the LCC, the Missile Crew controls 10 LF's directly, and has backup control over another 40, shared with the other 4 LCC's in the same squadron. The Minuteman III "Wing 6" system was the latest and greatest version of the Minuteman ICBM; among missileers it was known as the "Cadillac" of the ICBM systems. In some ways it is even better than the newer Peacekeeper (MX) system, let alone systems at other missile wings. Why?

Although all Missiles were eventually upgraded to Minuteman III's(and missile guidance computers and gyros for the missile were upgraded and increased the reliability several fold), the infrastructure of both the Launch Facilities and Launch Control centers was retained at the other bases, including the Command, Control, and Communications Systems. Aside from a twice-as-large LCC that allowed more room and equipment than the older Minuteman II system, there were many technical innovations over the older model. Instead of just a cable connection between the LCC and the silo, the Wing 6 configuration at Grand Forks AFB added a MF Radio link backup as well. Many of the systems in the Minuteman III system were contracted out to Sylvania, and they added more reliable, maintenance friendly electronic racks. Extra concrete shielding was added to increase the silo's ability to withstand a near-miss. The reason that the newer Peacekeeper Missile lags is because, due to budget cuts, it was not built as a new system, either. Instead, aging Minuteman II sites were refurbished and modified to hold them. This means they still use the same old MMII LCC's, intersite cabling, and so on. They also use the original "soft" support building that contains the primary and standby power systems can be taken out by a small "conventional" bomb - putting them into a "use or lose" category in even a small warfare situation. Kind of like buying a new, hopped up engine...and installing it in your old beater station wagon with bad tires on it. Sure, it may run like a raped ape...but will it hold together when you need it too...?

So why did they decommission the newest, best-built missile base? There are many likely reasons. Politics was no doubt a large part - North Dakota was the only state containing 2 missile bases, and was an obvious choice for downsizing. A running joke was that, between the warhead count on the 2 missile wings and the nuclear bomb/missile count on the 2 base's aircraft, if North Dakota declared itself a sovereign nation it would be the 4th or 5th most powerful nuclear country in the world! Another possible reason was to keep systems in service that used similar parts. Grand Forks was the only base using MM III system parts, aside from some launch testing silos at Vandenberg AFB and 1 squadron of Minuteman III's at Malmstrom AFB. All the other bases utilized the MM II system, and so this helped to sign the condemned notice for the base's missile force. Meanwhile, all the bases still in operation have been converting their missiles to Minuteman III's - just the missiles and necessary electronics, not a complete rebuild of the silo. Still trying to hop up that old jalopy, because nobody wants to pay for a new car.

How does this affect you? The original Minuteman force was supposed to be replaced after 20 years. That date passed 20 years ago, and current refurbishment programs now are set to carry the missile force until the year 2015. But you can only "refurbish", "upgrade", or "overhaul" something just so many times before it just won't do the job any more. To put this into perspective, let's say that you own a rusty, 40 - 50 year-old hand grenade, that was designed, built, and supplied parts by the lowest bidder. Even if someone puts on a new handle or pin for you, would YOU trust it to not go off in your face? Let alone have it work right if you need to use it. Yet that is precisely what the American public does, every time they vote for another military budget cut. There is no doubt that designing and building a new ICBM defense force would be an expensive task. But the price of freedom and security is not, and has never been, cheap. As more 3rd world countries develop, buy, or steal nuclear technology, only the threat of instant and overwhelming retaliation will hold them at bay.

If you still want to see what all the fun was about, then click a button to continue the tour.