Launch Facility Construction - FE Warren AFB - 1964
There have been a number of improvements and upgrades performed at the Minuteman Launch Facilities throughout the years. Once the Minuteman weapon system was deployed and placed on strategic alert, the Air Force was constantly discovering areas to improve and streamline this weapon system. This section will discuss some of the more significant upgrades to the Launch Facility.
In 1963 it was apparent that in order to extend the survivability of the Launch Control Facilities and Launch Facilities, upgrades needed to be performed to increase the hardness of the LCFs and LFs, which in turn allows for an extension in survivability.
One such upgrade was creating a shock mount system for the equipment in the Launch Support Building, the LSB. They also added shock attenuation equipment in the Launcher Equipment Room, within the interior of the Launch Facility. This provided a buffer, a shock absorbing feature, in the event of a nearby nuclear blast.
Also, they examined the fuel tanks for the emergency generator in the Launch Support Building, and opted to add flexible fuel connections between the bulk storage tank and the day tank, of the Launch Support Building.
In 1963 they also upgraded the hydraulic jack rail by modifying and permanently attaching to the Launch Facility apron (just forward of the Launch Tube and Launcher Closure Door) a 90 pound per yard railroad track rail with notches appropriately spaced to be compatible with the Hydraulic Jack, which was chosen to be the primary device used to open the Launcher Closure Door when maintenance was to be performed.
Debris Collection System Starting in 1974, a new set of improvements were integrated into the Minuteman Launch Facilities. One such improvement consisted of adding a Debris Collection System to the Launcher Closure Door. Essentially what this mechanism was designed for, was when the Launcher Closure Door was opening, thin flexible steel sheets that were attached to the sides of the Closure Door, and sandwiched against the frame of the Launcher Closure Door, would spring open and catch any debris (dirt and rocks) that had landed on top and to the sides of the Launcher Closure Door. This helped assure that this system would catch any debris falling down into the Launch Tube, as the door was opening.
The premise of this design was to insure that if there was a nearby nuclear detonation, any rock, dirt or other debris would not fall down into and onto the Minuteman missile, prior to its launch.
A new Missile Suspension System, MSS, was upgraded in the Launch Facilities. This new suspension system provided increased buffering and protection to the missile from ground shocks, in the event of a nuclear blast impacting the Launch Facility and missile.
The Launcher Equipment Room had a new shock mounted floor added to the Launch Facility. Again, it was felt best to incorporate a new Launcher Equipment Room shock isolated floor that would provide increased protection to the launch critical equipment configured in the Launcher Equipment Room.
Launcher Closure and Launcher Closure Actuating and Locking Mechanism. Modification to the Launcher Closure Door provided increased resistance to any ground shock air blast, as well as providing increased radiation protection to the launch critical equipment.
Improvements to the Launcher Closure Actuating and Locking Mechanism increased the resistance to ground shock effects, as well as increasing Launcher Closure removal power to compensate for effects of debris.
The UHF Antenna also received an upgrade at the Launch Facility. This was accomplished by installing a more shock resistant antenna and a new housing structure that was installed flush with the ground. This increased hardening was incorporated in response to the concern of what might occur given a significant ground shock from a nearby nuclear detonation that might damage the UHF Antenna. A revision to the cable termination fitting was implemented with the antenna to prevent failure of the armored cable shield.
Concrete Apron This upgrade added an additional 10 inches of concrete to the Launcher Closure Door and the surrounding concrete apron of the Launch Facility. Again, these steps were incorporated into the upgrades of the Launch Facility in adding increased hardness to the facility, in the event of nuclear explosion.
At some missile wings, the Personnel Access Hatch similar to the PAH used at the 564th SMS (Squadron 20) at Malmstrom AFB, was incorporated to replace the existing Personnel Access Hatch, which provided increased resistance to ground shock and blast air effects.
EMP Hardness Improvement An Electro Magnetic Pulse was and remains a constant reality in preparing for a variety of enemy nuclear attacks. EMP modifications were added to assure increased resistance to the Electro Magnetic Pulse of a nuclear attack. Decoupling and logic improvements were implemented to prevent equipment damages in the event of a voltage surge, as well as reducing transient noise conducted to the critical circuits within the launch equipment.
Auto Alignment - Auto Indexing A significant upgrade to the Launch Facility was seen in the elimination of the collimator and collimator bench, which also incorporated the use of the external concrete alignment markers, used in the targeting and alignment process for the Minuteman missile. With this new upgrade, targeting and alignment became internal within the computer equipment used within the Missile Guidance Set of the missile. This addition of new computer equipment was a significant improvement in the targeting capabilities of the Minuteman Missile.
Launch Facility batteries were removed and reinstalled on a shock isolated floor. Again, a feature designed to extend the survivability of the Launch Facility and its missile, making sure that the missile can be launched when called upon, even in the event of a nearby nuclear attack.
IMPSS - the Improved Minuteman Physical Security System was added to the Launch Facility in 1989, which provided an improved security system for the LF. With the earlier versions of the security system, there were often false alarms that were generated due to wind blowing, birds, and other factors that would trigger the alarm. This necessitated the Security Force team responding to the site. The IMPSS helped to significantly reduce these false alarms.
EMI/RFI Seal at the top of the Launch Tube, a Electro Magnetic Interference/Radio Frequency Interference Seal was added to the Launch Tube, which assisted in reducing the amount of electro magnetic and radio frequency interference generated in an enemy attack on the Launch Facility.
Launch Tube Liner removal and replacement occurred starting in 1977 with the removal of the older Launch Tube liner, including both the upper level and lower levels of the Launch Tube liners, and were replaced by improved upper and lower Launch Tube liners.