Commentary Search

Ready to fight, anytime, anywhere

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Glenn Harris
  • 90th Operation Support Squadron commander
Much of the reason Air Force Global Strike Command's F. E. Warren Air Force Base exists as it does today can be traced back almost 70 years.

On July 16, 1945 at 5:29 a.m., a gigantic explosion occurred just outside of Socorro, N.M., on an empty stretch of desert land. The blast was so powerful that the ground shook noticeably for 30 miles around the detonation point.

It has been said that July 16, 1945 was a "day the sun rose twice," due to the amount of light emitted from the explosion.

The explosion was named "Trinity," and was the culmination of a joint effort by the United States and Britain that yielded the world's first atomic bomb. Over the course of more than 60 years, nuclear weapons have taken many forms including intercontinental cruise missiles, nuclear artillery, nuclear torpedoes and ICBMs.

The weapons were as heavy as 41,000 pounds and some were light enough to be carried by an individual person. As technology increased, the weight of the weapons decreased and in the 50s warheads became light enough and had basic performance requirements that allowed them to be placed on top of ICBMs.

Early ICBMs were unreliable, inaccurate, vulnerable to attack and very expensive to maintain.

These limitations were lost with the introduction of the Minuteman I in the early 1960's. The 450 Minuteman III missiles that are currently on nuclear alert here, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. and Minot Air Force Base, N.D., have had "face-lifts" over time, but the Minuteman's characteristic have had little change since the introduction of the Minuteman I.

The Minuteman III can be launched quickly, is extremely reliable and survivable, and is inexpensive to maintain when compared to other weapon systems.

However, one of the most important characteristics of the Minuteman weapon system is that the missiles are dispersed over wide-open areas across five states. Even if the Minuteman fleet absorbed a first strike, due to its survivability characteristics, a significant portion of the Minuteman missiles would remain ready to strike the adversary.
This complicates any plan to accomplish a first strike against the United States and is a great example of why the Minuteman fleet is a stabilizing force in a world of increasing uncertainty.

If the Minuteman III were removed from the nuclear triad, leaving sea based missiles and bombers as the Unites States only nuclear forces, the United States could be permanently crippled by just a few nuclear weapons due to the lack of the ICBMs' responsive and survivable nuclear capability.

The Mighty Ninety deter adversaries every day and stands ready to be the first to the fight if called upon.