Why F.E. Warren?

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Why F.E. Warren?

Postby Weapons Loader on Sat Jan 19, 2008 10:09 pm

It seems to me it would have been more logical to choose Malmstrom, Minot, or Grand Forks as the Peacekeeper base because it would have the missiles farther north, and hopefully cover a wider target area. Were the Minuteman facilities at F.E. Warren the only ones capable of being converted to Peacekeeper?
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Re: Why F.E. Warren?

Postby 3901smes on Sun Jan 20, 2008 2:20 am

I think it had something to do with silo depth. I believe the wing 5 tubes were a few feet deeper and there was a need to have the missile nose cap a certain distance from the bottom of the launcher closure door for ground shock vertical reasons.
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Re: Why F.E. Warren?

Postby SAC Killer on Sun Jan 20, 2008 10:39 pm

I think the mobile version of Peacekeeper was also a factor. I'm trying to recall; was on the AF Systems Command staff then. There was a plan to deploy a rail-mobile version. It would stay on base and only deploy during periods of increased readiness. FE Warren had better access to rail, due to the Union Pacific. Since the rail-mobile Peacekeeper was "soft," it depended on stealth. Much easier to hide the rail version on a busy railroad than on the lighter used tracks at the other bases.

Launcher depth was indeed also a factor. Wing I launch tubes are not as deep as the others. If I recall correctly (never a given these days!), there was some concern that they would not be deep enough for the LGM-30G. In my days as an MCCM, Wing I had the LGM-30F.
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Re: Why F.E. Warren?

Postby hockey85 on Tue Jan 22, 2008 6:15 am

I heard it was silo depth as well. FEW was deeper than most of the previous wings built before it. They could have put the PK in Deuce LF's at Grand Forks or the 564th at Malmstrom, but like it was mentioned earlier, the railroad access at FEW was better. It wouldnt have made sense maintenance and logistics wise to have 50 silo based PK's at Grand Forks for example, and then 50 rail based at FEW. Better to have all 100 at the same base. But after the Cold War, the 50 rail based PK's were cancelled.

I saw the PK basing report at the UND library archives in Grand Forks, but never was able to look through the whole thing. I'm sure there were many other factors for placing them at FE as well.

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Re: Why F.E. Warren?

Postby Cancellier on Tue Jan 22, 2008 1:32 pm

Rail access is also an issue for airframe transportation. Stages moved between the Main Operating Base, the Depot and Vandenberg purely by rail. PKRG never really got past the tech demo stages and had bunches of problems.

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Re: Why F.E. Warren?

Postby AE on Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:20 am

Now that the plug has been pulled on the 400th, so to speak, I believe it's safe to relate the following. As I heard it, the principal factor for selecting Squad 4 at FEW was because it offered the best silo survivability; i.e., the ground in that region was "harder" than in the other squadrons being considered. The so-called MX was often called a "first strike" weapon by those who opposed it but, in fact, it was designed to survive a near miss (as the debris collar and cut-away launch tube liner attest) so soil composition was a critical factor in the survivability equation. The second most important factor was the hoped for rail-mobile configuration for the other 50 Peacekeepers and, you're correct, the rail system and infrastructure in that area was optimum for such a deployment. AE
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Re: Why F.E. Warren?

Postby Weapons Loader on Thu Jan 31, 2008 3:30 am

Debris Collar? Cutaway Launch Tube Liner? Could you please explain? Again, if the Russians or Chinese haven't thought about it, nevermind. Then again, it must be nice to still have brand-new SSBNs and Topol-M ICBMs rolling off the assembly line as we speak.

The "first strike" weapon argument rings a bell; everything I've read about PK development in the early years (late 70s - early 80s) mentions how the LAST thing they wanted to do was stuff the missiles in silos...road, rail, sea, air, ANYTHING but silo-basing.
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Re: Why F.E. Warren?

Postby SAC Killer on Thu Jan 31, 2008 1:46 pm

Weapons Loader wrote:The "first strike" weapon argument rings a bell; everything I've read about PK development in the early years (late 70s - early 80s) mentions how the LAST thing they wanted to do was stuff the missiles in silos...road, rail, sea, air, ANYTHING but silo-basing.


The "first strike" argument was usually voiced by the anti-Peacekeeper crowd. They had the quaint notion that having a first strike weapon meant that (1) the powers that be were likely to use it, and (2) faced with the threat, the opponent was likely to strike us first. No facts were ever brought forth to support either notion, but it made good press. They took it as a given that Peacekeeper was a first strike weapon, which never made any sense to me.

Regarding basing, there was so much political turmoil surrounding the Peacekeeper program that SAC was hard-pressed to define a final basing mode. Nobody wanted the thing near them; they all thought it would make them a target. As a result, SAC kept coming up with new ideas. I knew a guy on the SAC staff who complained at the time that he had been tasked to come up with an entirely new Peacekeeper basing mode -- by close of business that day!

Peacekeeper was intended from the start as a mobile system, and it was stuffed into Minuteman launchers because that was the only basing mode that could get funded at the time. In contrast, at the same time the Navy built the entire Trident system, including new bases on both coasts, without a whimper from the public.

SAC was also interested to learn that for political reasons it was easier to buy new land for hiding mobile missiles than it was to obtain rights to use land already owned by the Department of the Interior. As a result, while I was at AFRPL, SAC sent a team out to Edwards AFB to see if they could hide Small ICBMs there. AFFTC's response was (this is a quote): "you toucha my lake bed, I breaka you arms."
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Re: Why F.E. Warren?

Postby AE on Thu Jan 31, 2008 1:49 pm

Sorry about that, I thought these modifications were common knowledge. When the MM was first fielded, Soviet ICBM accuracy was so poor we had no concerns about debris but as their accuracy was improved we eventually assumed that a near miss would pile several feet of earth on top of the silo's launcher closure door. Therefore, pop-open catch bins were subsequently added to the door on the three hidden faces nearest the PAH. Sure, they wouldn't catch all the debris but the Minuteman has a small enough diameter that its believed there's plenty of room for any debris that misses the bins to fall safely to the bottom of the launch tube. Peacekeeper, on the other hand, leaves so little room between the missile and the launch tube liner that debris could very well have interfered with its egress. Therefore, a section of the liner several feet high near the top of the missile was removed, all the way around, and a breakaway (sectionalized) collar was placed around the base of the nosecone to deflect/divert residual debris out of the launch tube and into the equipment room that surrounds it. AE
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Re: Why F.E. Warren?

Postby LA CrewDawg on Fri Feb 01, 2008 6:49 am

The "first strike" argument was usually voiced by the anti-Peacekeeper crowd. They had the quaint notion that having a first strike weapon meant that (1) the powers that be were likely to use it, and (2) faced with the threat, the opponent was likely to strike us first. No facts were ever brought forth to support either notion, but it made good press. They took it as a given that Peacekeeper was a first strike weapon, which never made any sense to me.


The PK was supposed to a mobile system and in theory would survive a first strike. Once PK in MM silos was selected, PK survivability tanked compared to mobile basing modes. With its 10 bomb capacity the PK became a destabilizing force in the nuclear arena as do all stationary MIRV'd ICBMs. Here's why. If the other guys can take out 25-30 PKs in a bolt from the blue then 250-300 SIOP targets go uncovered. A reasonable person can assume that countries with massively MIRV'd weapons will not place those systems at risk by trying to ride out a first strike in well known silo locations. They gotta go and they gotta go early.
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Re: Why F.E. Warren?

Postby Capt. Bill on Sat Mar 20, 2010 5:20 am

3901smes wrote:I think it had something to do with silo depth. I believe the wing 5 tubes were a few feet deeper and there was a need to have the missile nose cap a certain distance from the bottom of the launcher closure door for ground shock vertical reasons.


I remembered seeing this topic when I posted a schematic of an LF under the topic "Minuteman-3 silo outside" under Missile Coffee house. The MM 1 TO I have is for wings III and V. It shows the total silo depth at Minot was 78 feet which was probably typical of Wings I, II and IV also. F. E. Warren's silo depth is shown as 88 feet, 10 feet deeper.
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Re: Why F.E. Warren?

Postby LA CrewDawg on Sat Mar 20, 2010 6:04 am

AE wrote:... a section of the liner several feet high near the top of the missile was removed, all the way around... AE

I took a number of DMCCC tours out to MMIII and PK sites. The idea was to let the new Dep's see the pointy end of the stick before their first alerts. The PK LFs were always a little more impressive because you could walk all the way around the nose cone without that pesky launcher tube blocking your view of the bird.
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Re: Why F.E. Warren?

Postby titanguy38 on Thu Nov 17, 2011 4:02 pm

I'll put this question to rest....I was a Peacekeeper basing Program Manager at BMO (Norton AFB) during the early 1980's. Yes, silo depth was a key factor, due to the install of the HGG at the launch tube/canister base....as well as some of the silo proximity and accessibility for the mod.
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Re: Why F.E. Warren?

Postby SAC Killer on Thu Nov 17, 2011 11:24 pm

titanguy38 wrote:I'll put this question to rest....I was a Peacekeeper basing Program Manager at BMO (Norton AFB) during the early 1980's. Yes, silo depth was a key factor, due to the install of the HGG at the launch tube/canister base....as well as some of the silo proximity and accessibility for the mod.


That makes perfect engineering sense! Thanks! But please, for us non-Peacekeeper types: what's an HGG?
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Re: Why F.E. Warren?

Postby Capt. Bill on Fri Nov 18, 2011 12:28 am

This brings up these questions. Minot, Wing III was 78' and F. E. Warren, Wing V was 88'.

Were Wings I and II also 78'?

What was the depth of Wings IV and VI?

Why was Wing V's depth set 10' feet deeper if it was getting B missiles just like Wing III?
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