Air Force Bases

Minuteman Missile Basing Strategy

The Air Force initially contemplated deploying Minuteman as far south as Georgia, Texas, and Oklahoma. But when it became apparent that the early Minuteman I/A had a range of only 4,300 miles, Air Force planners decided to base the missiles in Montana and South Dakota to bring them closer to their targets in the Soviet Union. Later, after the range of the Minuteman increased, the Air Force built Minuteman launch facilities as far south as Missouri.

The AFBMD's original proposal called for deploying 1,600 Minuteman missiles. The Air Force soon reduced that to 1,200 missiles, and in December 1964 decided to limit deployment to 1,000 missiles. The Minuteman force remained at 1,000 missiles until 1986, when it was reduced to 950 to make way for the Peacekeeper ICBM.

The Air Force grouped its Minuteman force into six wings, each composed of either three or four 50-missile squadrons. Each squadron was divided into five flights, each composed of ten missiles. A flight consisted of an underground launch control center (LCC) and ten unmanned launch facilities (LFs). The LCCs were located a minimum of 3 miles from the nearest LF, and the individual LFs were separated by a similar distance. That degree of dispersal called for vast tracts of sparsely populated land. Minuteman Wing II, based at Ellsworth AFB, North Dakota, sprawled over 15,000 square miles, and Minuteman Wing III, based at Minot AFB, North Dakota, covered 12,000 square miles.

In keeping with the Air Force's policy of using public land and existing government facilities to support the missile program wherever possible, all of the Minuteman wings were built around existing SAC bases. The bases housed the missile maintenance facilities and the wing administrative and support buildings.