F.E. Warren Air Force Base is the oldest continuously active military installation established within the Air Force, which was originally established in 1867 by the United States Army as Fort David Allen Russell. The base transferred to the United States Army Air Forces' control on June 1, 1947, which then transferred to the United States Air Force dating back to September 18, 1947.
F.E. Warren AFB is located about 3 miles west of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The base was named in honor of Francis E. Warren back in 1930. F.E. Warren AFB originally was designated Fort Francis E. Warren. Francis Emroy Warren fought in the Civil War, and was awarded the Medal of Honor at the age of 19. He was born in 1844 and died in 1929. He was Wyoming's first United States Senator, and served in the Senate for 27 years.
The base is now the home of the 90th Missile Wing, which is assigned to the Twentieth Air Force, Air Force Global Strike Command. The wing has Launch Facilities in southeast Wyoming, western Nebraska, and northern Colorado.
Its history dates all the way back to the Railroad Act of 1862. As President Abraham Lincoln and Congress were devising plans for the transcontinental railroad, they understood the need for a military installation to protect Union Pacific workers from hostile natives. In July 1867 the U.S. Calvary moved from their temporary headquarters in Cheyenne to an area 3 miles west and established Fort D. A. Russell, in honor of Civil War Brigadier General David A. Russell.
in 1884 Fort Russell was made a permanent post because of its advantageous strategic location. In 1885 the War Department approved plans to have the post rebuilt to serve a total of eight infantry companies. The Army set forth to build 27 brick buildings for a price of $100,000 and planted thousands of trees. From 1885 to approximately 1930 a total of approximately 220 brick buildings were built. In the early days of the Fort, many of these buildings were stables that housed nearly 20,000 horses and mules. Most of these buildings remain in use today.
Quarters #2 - General John Pershing's Home
In researching FE Warren AFB, one will discover a wealth of history attached to the base. One of the prior mentioned brick buildings built at then Fort Russell, stands as Quarters Number 2 today, which back in 1885 was the post commander's home. Based on tradition, the post commander always occupied the largest home on the post. In 1903 a larger home was built, at which point the commander then moved he and his family into that home. Quarters Number 2 was then assigned to the family of Captain "Black Jack" Pershing, who later led American forces during World War I. Captain Pershing married U.S. Senator FE Warren's daughter.
Because of the influence of being married to Senator Warren's daughter, Captain Pershing was promoted to general within six months of getting married. Pershing was eventually promoted to the General of the Armies, a position only shared by one other man, General George Washington.
A number of other well known people has been stationed at FE Warren, including General Billy Mitchell - the "Father of the Air Force"; General Mark Clark, World War II general; General Benjamin O Davis, the first black general; as well as Dr. Walter Reed, are each associated with FE Warren. Singers Sammy Davis Jr, Neil Diamond, and Chris LeDoux, all grew up at this installation.
Fort Francis E. Warren was designated as Francis E. Warren Air Force Base on October 7, 1949. The base was used during the Korean War by the Air Training Command, which processed thousands of volunteer reservists, and from July 1950 to October 1950 approximately 20,000 reservists were transitioned to active duty at Warren AFB.
706th Strategic Missile Wing
Moving forward from the early 50s into the later years of that decade, F.E. Warren AFB was chosen by the Department of Defense to become the first ICBM base in the United States. This news was announced by the DOD on November 21, 1957. A short time after this announcement, the base shifted their command to the Strategic Air Command from the Air Training Command. Once it was all said and done, F.E. Warren AFB was responsible for a total of 24 Atlas D and E ICBM missiles, deployed at 14 different sites.
Site A, also referred to as Warren I, consisted of two above ground complexes consisting of three launchers for each complex, making for a total of 6 Atlas D ICBM missiles. The first Atlas D complex to be constructed was declared fully operational and the 564th SMS was placed on strategic alert on August 9, 1960.
Warren II consisted of three sites for the Atlas D missile, with 3 launchers per site, consisting of Sites B, C and D. After many obstacles encountered in construction, the 565th Strategic Missile Squadron was able to be placed on strategic alert with its 9 Atlas D ICBM missiles.
F.E. Warren was surely in a multitasking role, in that as work progressed with the construction of 5 complexes consisting of 3 launchers per complex for the Atlas D missile. The Atlas E missile was brought into the mix at F.E. Warren when construction began on December 9, 1959 for a total of 9 individual "coffin" launchers, designed for the Atlas E ICBM missile. These launchers were designed to have the Atlas E missile stored in a horizontal position, underneath the "coffin roof", requiring that when the missile was needed to be launched, the roof was pulled away and the Atlas missile was then raised to a vertical position for launch.
The 9 Atlas E missiles were deployed in Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado, making it a logistics nightmare for construction. Delivery of steel was extremely difficult due to a steel strike going on at the time of construction. Recruiting labor from 3 separate states, contingent on the state the launcher was located in, made things even more challenging.
As has been evidenced throughout the 8 or 9 year period of time that the build up of the ICBM force occurred, these construction challenges inspired the Department of Defense and the Air Force to create the Corps of Engineers Ballistic Missile Construction Office, CEBMCO. The CEBMCO was able to take over and had the ability to effectively and efficiently oversee and provide management of the Atlas, Titan and finally the Minuteman missile construction. All aspects of construction was closely monitored by CEBMCO and the logistical nightmare of the construction with so many people, machines, sites, etc. was significantly reduced.
October 1, 1960 marked the date that the 549th Strategic Missile Squadron, overseeing the 9 Atlas E missiles, was activated. The 549th SMS was renamed the 566th SMS on July 1, 1961. On that same date, the 706th Strategic Missile Wing stood down, and the 389th Strategic Missile Wing took over at F.E. Warren AFB.
Four short years later, in September 1964 the 564th SMS was deactivated, followed by the deactivation of the 566th SMS in March 1965. It is interesting to note that the 564th SMS was reactivated when Malmstrom AFB added a fourth missile squadron, designated as the 564th Strategic Missile Squadron at Malmstrom AFB. The 564th SMS had the Minuteman II missile deployed with this squadron, and they were fully operational at Malmstrom AFB on May 5, 1967.
90th Strategic Missile Wing
F.E. Warren Air Force Base stepped into the Minuteman realm of ICBMs when Morrison-Knudsen and Associates won the contract to construct 200 Minuteman IB Launch Facilities and 20 Launch Control Facilities across an area of approximately 8300 square miles that included parts of the states of Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado. Morrison-Knudsen were awarded the contract on October 15, 1962.
F.E. Warren AFB was the only missile wing to initially set out to construct a total of 200 Minuteman Launch Facilities. At wings II, III, IV and VI, these missile wings were only constructed with a total of 150 missile Launch Facilities per wing. Wing I, Malmstrom AFB, originally started with 150 Minuteman missiles, and then added a fourth missile squadron, the 564th, that brought the total at Malmstrom to 200 Minuteman missiles.
With construction on the Minuteman missile wing starting in 1962, the 90th Strategic Missile Wing was reactivated on July 1, 1963. Over the next 12 months the 319th, 320th and 321st squadrons were reactivated (they were originally a part of the 90th bomber wing, as squadrons belonging to the 90th BW) as Strategic Missile Squadrons. The 319th SMS activated on October 1, 1963. The 320th SMS activated on January 8, 1964, and the 321st activated on April 8, 1964. The fourth missile squadron, the 400th SMS activated on July 1, 1964.
A point of interest with F.E. Warren AFB's Minuteman missile wing, is that it was one of the missile wings that never upgraded to the Minuteman II missile. The 90th SMW phased out its last Minuteman I missile in September 1974, and the Minuteman I missiles were all replaced by the Minuteman III missile.
A key point in history at F.E. Warren Air Force Base occurred on November 22, 1982 when President Ronald Reagan presented his decision to Congress, stating his plan to deploy the MX missile, which he dubbed the Peacekeeper, to hardened Launch Facilities that would be located at F.E. Warren AFB. The Peacekeeper missile, (formerly referred to as the MX missile, Missile eXperimental), was a significantly different Intercontinental Ballistic Missile compared to the Minuteman missile. The Peacekeeper missile stood 71 feet 6 inches tall, was 7 feet 7 inches in diameter, and weighed close to 195,000 pounds, nearly 2.5 times that of a Minuteman III missile. The Peacekeeper carried a total of 10 Reentry Vehicles with a yield of 300 KT per warhead.
For further discussion on the Peacekeeper missile, follow the link directly below.
The first significant event associated with the Peacekeeper occurred on December 16, 1986 when the tenth Peacekeeper missile was placed on strategic alert at the 400th Strategic Missile Squadron. President Reagan's initial plan was to deploy 100 Peacekeeper missiles, but after further discussion with Congress and the Defense Department this number was reduced to a total of 50 MX missiles. F.E. Warren opted to replace the 50 Minuteman III missiles assigned to the 400th SMS, removing the Minuteman IIIs and replacing those with the 50 Peacekeeper missiles.
By 1988, the squadron of 50 Peacekeeper missiles were brought on full alert. The accuracy of the Peacekeeper and its Reentry Vehicles were beyond compare. The technology used with the missile guidance systems that were used on the Peacekeeper has been utilized on the current force of 450 Minuteman missiles remaining on alert. One of the significant factors in establishing the deterrent value of the current Minuteman missiles, are their accuracy. It is stated that the United States possesses the most accurate guidance systems in the world.
The 400th Strategic Missile Squadron assigned to F.E. Warren AFB was the only missile squadron to put the Peacekeeper missile on operational alert. 13 years later found the Peacekeeper missiles being slated for inactivation in 2001. Four years later, the final Peacekeeper was pulled from its Launch Facility and the 400th Strategic Missile Squadron officially inactivated on September 19, 2005.
For further information about F.E. Warren Air Force Base, follow the link below to their website.
Two additional features regarding the 90th SMS, are that F.E. Warren AFB was the first missile wing to upgrade their Launch Control Centers with the Rapid Execution And Combat Targeting system.
Incorporated into its design the new REACT system would allow the Minuteman III missile to be retargeted against emerging mobile SS-24 and SS-25 missiles. Designed by Loral (now Lockheed Martin) and GTE Government Systems, the REACT system replaced the Command Data Buffer (CDB), a system that eliminated the procedure where Air Force technicians had to physically load new target tapes into each individual Minuteman Launch Facility, a process by which would take weeks to complete.
While the CDB provided the ability to be reprogrammed from the Launch Control Center capsule itself, it still relied largely upon pre-stored and formulated plans, and required about 20 hours to redirect the entire Minuteman force. The REACT system now makes it possible to retarget all of the missiles in less than 10 hours.
The second feature worth discussing, is the ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty I, (START I), of which the agreement made was that the United States had until 2001 to reduce its nuclear weapons. The 90th Missile Wing was one of the first wings to honor this agreement, and by August 6, 2001 all 150 of the Minuteman III missiles had been converted to having a single Reentry Vehicle, an SRV.