The United States military recently conducted a Minuteman III missile launch, showcasing its nuclear capability. The Minuteman III is a vital component of the nation’s strategic deterrent forces, managed by the Air Force Global Strike Command.
Background: The Evolution of Minuteman
- The Minuteman missile system originated in the late 1950s, with the deployment of Minuteman I in the early 1960s.
- It marked a revolutionary leap in technology, offering rapid reaction times and superior survivability compared to its predecessors.
- Over almost six decades, the system has undergone continuous enhancements, incorporating modernization programs, expanded targeting options, and improved accuracy and survivability.
- Today’s Minuteman weapon system reflects nearly 60 years of advancements.
Features of the Minuteman III Missile
Primary Function and Designation
- The Minuteman III is an American land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
- The “L” in LGM signifies silo-launched; “G” denotes surface attack; “M” stands for guided missile, with “30” representing the Minuteman series, and the “G” after “30” indicating the current Minuteman III variant.
- The Minuteman III is a strategic weapon system employing a ballistic missile with intercontinental range.
- Missiles are dispersed in hardened silos, ensuring protection against attacks, and connected to an underground launch control center through a system of robust cables.
- Launch crews, consisting of two officers, maintain around-the-clock alerts in the launch control center, ensuring readiness.
Maintenance and Reliability
- Minuteman’s maintenance concept emphasizes high reliability and a “remove and replace” approach, achieving nearly 100 percent alert rate.
- The system’s inertially guided, highly survivable nature has been a cornerstone of America’s strategic deterrent program.
General Characteristics of Minuteman III
Contractor and Propulsion
- The Minuteman III missile system is developed by Boeing Co.
- It is powered by three solid-propellant rocket motors: First Stage ATK refurbished M55A1, Second Stage ATK refurbished SR-19, and Third Stage ATK refurbished SR-73.
- Weight: 79,432 pounds (36,030 kilograms)
- Diameter: 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)