Alpha 11 Launch Facility

Alpha 11 Launch Facility Site Malmstrom AFB

Construction Techniques

Launch Facilities

In creating the deployment strategy for the Minuteman missile launch facilities, the Air Force wanted to ensure that each missile would be viewed as a separate target. It was essential that each Launch Facility was placed far enough apart, that if a low megaton strike hit one missile silo, it would not cause damage to any of its neighboring Launch Facilities.

The deployment strategy set in place by the Air Force touched upon four areas. Maximizing the missile's operational capability; minimizing the missile sites' vulnerability; minimizing the potential danger to the United States, as well as Canada; and being ever vigilant of the taxpayer's money throughout the entire process.

Construction of the Minuteman Launch Facilities was significantly streamlined using prefabricated components and standardized installation plans. This reduced the construction costs and construction time dramatically. An example can be given by comparing the cost of building an Atlas F ICBM launch facility, costing $3.6 million, in comparison to $500,000 for building a Minuteman missile Launch Facility.

A number of the Minuteman Launch Facilities were constructed using the same procedures. Army Corps engineers excavated a circular cut down to 34 feet. At this point, the crews would use either a clamshell bucket or a huge auger, with which the engineers extracted a 15 foot diameter shaft down a total of 94 feet. At this point the construction crew would lower down a 62 foot prefabricated steel silo liner, built of quarter inch steel plate, which was ringed with concentric rings of large diameter rebar.

Once the silo liner was aligned, concrete was then pumped around it to form the external missile silo wall. Once the engineers completed the silo, the underground launch equipment and Launch Facility Support Building were constructed, at which point the excavation site was back filled.

In comparison, the average Minuteman missile silo required only 15 percent of the earth moving, 20 percent of the steel and 15 percent of the concrete needed to build an Atlas F silo. The financial expenditure of building the 12 Atlas missile sites near Plattsburgh, New York cost a total of $44 million, where building 150 Minuteman silos at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, cost $75 million.

As stated previously, there was a huge benefit in using prefabricated components and using standardized installation plans. Between 1961 and 1966 the Corps of Engineers Ballistic Missile Construction Office, CEBMCO, built 1000 Minuteman launch facilities at the incredible rate of 1.8 per day. (To Defend and Deter, page 86)

To view photos of various stages of construction at a Launch Facility, click on the link below.