Air Force Bases

Titan I Missile Development History

The ICBM Scientific Advisory Committee planted the seeds of the Titan program in July 1954 when it recommended that the Air Force's Western Development Division (WDD) explore alternate missile configurations before entrusting the nation's entire ICBM program to the untested Atlas (SM-65).

The following month the WDD directed its systems engineering and technical direction (SE/TD) contractor, the Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation, to institute a study of alternate ICBM configurations. Shortly thereafter the contractor hired Lockheed Aircraft Corporation and the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Company to help with the task. The ICBM Scientific Advisory Committee was a group of prominent civilian scientists and engineers that advised the Air Force on the missile program.

When the study began, both the WDD and Ramo-Wooldridge were leery of becoming overly reliant on Atlas. Convair's design reflected an unconventional approach, and while many tests had been made, it had not been flight tested nor could it be for nearly 3 years.

Based on the preliminary results of its study, in October the WDD recommended that Convair go ahead with Atlas, but at the same time the development agency also suggested that the Air Force broaden its ICBM program to include a missile with a rigid, aircraft type fuselage and an alternate engine configuration. The WDD stressed that developing a second ICBM would allow the Air Force to pursue a more ambitious design and would also stimulate competition between the two ICBM programs.

In January 1955 the ICBM Scientific Advisory Committee reviewed the WDD's findings and recommended that the Air Force pursue an alternate ICBM configuration, most probably one with a two-stage propulsion system. Based on the committee's recommendation, in April 1955 Secretary of the Air Force Harold Talbott authorized the WDD to begin work on a second ICBM. His only stipulation was that the winning contractor agree to build its missile production facility in the central United States.

The Air Force solicited bids for the second ICBM in May 1955 and the following October awarded the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Company of Baltimore, Maryland a contract to develop the new Titan I (SM-68A) ICBM. Martin built its Titan production facility outside of Denver, Colorado. The Air Force accepted delivery of its first production Titan in June 1958, and began testing shortly thereafter. In April 1959 the Army Corps of Engineers began supervising the construction of the first Titan I launch facilities at Lowry AFB, Colorado. Three years later that site hosted the first Titan I squadron to be placed on operational alert.