The Cold War is long over – but in the Midwest of the US there are still relicts, like this Minuteman Missile Site in South Dakota, 75 miles east of Rapid City on Interstate-90 (I-90). The missile shown below is a dummy, there are no longer any active sites in South Dakota. The START Treaty signed in September 1991, directly led to the deactivation of 150 Minuteman Missiles of the 44th Missile Wing in western South Dakota.
But there are still 450 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles on 24/7 alert in F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana and Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. And they are tested regularly, for example in December 2013 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
More than 500 airmen work in shifts underground – and the ICBM-guards get bored, as Walter Pincus from the Washington Post writes. That’s understandable, because besides waiting, there is not much to do. So it is surprising, that 34 ICBM launch officers cheated on their monthly test rather than using the time to study.
When I visited the South Dakota Site, the elevator was broken – so I could not go underground. But if you want to take a peak, check this Air Force video. (story begins at 1:00)
Are the ICBMs still necessary to protect the US from a nuclear strike from Russia? Not everybody agrees that the missiles are a holdover from the past. The Pentagon wants to destroy 50 ICBMs , but the Senate has blocked the cuts.
By the way, if you a re in the area: Visit the South Dakota Air and Space Museum at Ellsworth Air Force Base. It’s got cool stuff, it’s free and the interior will reopen after “updating” for the public in March 2014. Outside, there’s even an original “Rosinenbomber” (see picture at the bottom of this post).