Missile TechnologyOctober 23, 2020
Possibly the most powerful American tactical weapon, Boeing’s Minuteman carries on to form the foundation of the US land based tactical deterrent force some 40 years following the system’s first test launch, and over twenty years following the last instance was constructed. Barring the unlikely emergence of a new US ICBM, Minuteman appears likely to function for at least another 2 decades, and many programs are still underway to keep the system viable. Minuteman originated in the same 1957 interval as Polaris, and initially the effort has been aimed at using the new good technology to generate a land based weapon in the exact same general range course as the Navy missile.
This quickly gave way to a plan for a good fuel ICBM, even though to be bigger than Polaris, it’d be much smaller in comparison to Atlas or Titan. Though strong technology had its challenges, in addition, it held out the promise of a far easier missile which may take place for prolonged periods at almost instant readiness, without the extensive, time intensive, and dangerous fueling operations needed with first production weapons. Even a Small good fuel ICBM would also be a lot more economical to construct and operate, allowing a bigger force to be fielded. Known early on as Weapons System Q and WS-133, the good ICBM program later became famous as Minuteman, with Boeing to be the overall head of the builder team.
The basic design was for a 3 stage missile approximately forty legs long carrying out a single W56 or W59 warhead at an Avco Mk.5 RV. The weapon will be silo based, and will be fired from underground. In order to gain expertise with in silo launch of motor vehicles, subscale models were tested at Edwards AFB, followed by full size firings at 1959-1960, these latter tests used missiles together with just enough original stage propellant to burn for a few seconds, that was sufficient to clear the silo. On Feb 1, 1961 the original real Minuteman launch took place, from out a pad in Cape Canaveral.
Unlike the first Atlas and Titan shots, the original LGM-30 was a complete article, together with a full guidance system and all phases live. The launch has been a success, and the missile has been reported to have flown 4, 600 miles. Nevertheless, on the second launch, on May 19, 1961 didn’t fare as well, being destroyed out a minute and out a half into the flight. The first attempt at a silo launch, again from Canaveral, ended dramatically on August 30, 1961 when all of the phases fired simultaneously. A powerful silo firing was conducted on Nov 17, 1961, with the missile traveling 3, 000 miles.