NOTE: This is a copy of an official USAF Fact Sheet Page. Because these pages change, we've opted to retain a copy locally. No changes were made to this page.
NOTE ALSO: This sheet is about the improved Minuteman III. The LGM-30A Minuteman I system was in service at E-Flight in March 1967.
USAF Fact Sheet 96-09
The LGM-30 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile is an element of the nation's strategic deterrent forces. The "L" in LGM is the Department of Defense designation for silo-launched; "G" means surface attack; and "M" stands for guided missile.
The Minuteman is a strategic weapon system using a ballistic missile of intercontinental range. 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.
The Minuteman weapon system was conceived in the late 1950s and deployed in the early 1960s. Minuteman was a revolutionary concept and an extraordinary technical achievement. Both the missile and basing components incorporated significant advances beyond the relatively slow-reacting, liquid-fueled, remotely-controlled intercontinental ballistic missiles of the previous generation. From the beginning, Minuteman missiles have provided a quick-reacting, inertially guided, highly survivable component to America's nuclear Triad. Minuteman's maintenance concept capitalizes on high reliability and a "remove and replace" approach to achieve a near 100 percent alert rate.
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.
The current Minuteman force consists of 530 Minuteman III's located at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.; Malmstrom AFB, Mont.; Minot AFB, N.D.; and Grand Forks AFB, N.D. As a result of U.S. initiatives to cancel development programs for new intercontinental ballistic missiles and retire the Peacekeeper ICBM, Minuteman will become the only land-based ICBM in the Triad. To compensate for termination of the Small ICBM and Peacekeeper Rail Garrison programs, DOD will conduct an extensive life extension program to keep Minuteman viable beyond the turn of the century. These major programs include replacement of the aging guidance system, remanufacture of the solid-propellant rocket motors, replacement of standby power systems, repair of launch facilities, and installation of updated, survivable communications equipment and new command and control consoles to enhance immediate communications.
Primary function: Intercontinental ballistic missile
Contractor: Boeing Co.
Power plant: Three solid-propellant rocket motors; first stage, Thiokol; second stage, Aerojet-General; third stage, United Technologies Chemical Systems Division
Thrust: First stage, 202,600 pounds (91,170 kilograms)
Length: 59.9 feet (18 meters)
Weight: 79,432 pounds (32,158 kilograms)
Diameter: 5.5 feet (1.67 meters)
Range: 6,000-plus miles (5,218 nautical miles)
Speed: Approximately 15,000 mph (Mach 23 or 24,000 kph) at burnout
Ceiling: 700 miles (1,120 kilometers)
Load: Re-entry vehicle: General Electric MK 12 or MK 12A
Guidance systems: Inertial system: Autonetics Division of Rockwell International; ground electronic/security system: Sylvania Electronics Systems and Boeing Co.
Warheads: Three (downloaded to one as required by the Washington Summit Agreement, June 1992)
Unit cost: $7 million
Date deployed: June 1970, production cessation: December 1978
Inventory: Active force, 530; Reserve, 0; ANG, 0
Point Of Contact
Air Force Space Command, Public Affairs Office; 150 Vandenberg St., Suite 1105; Peterson AFB, CO 80914-4500; DSN 692-3978 or (719) 554-3978.
Image of minuteman missile launch