NPS Minuteman Missile
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  • 9. Putting In a Missile

    A trailer raises over the concrete deck of a silo
    A transporter erector over an open silo.

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    Putting in a Missile

    The two thick steel pylons near the launcher were vital to the emplacement of a missile. Whenever a missile required repairs on base, a massive vehicle known as the Transporter Erector made the transfer to and from Ellsworth via a slow-moving convoy accompanied by both Maintenance and Security teams.


    Arriving on site, the driver aligned with marker lines, then backed slowly towards the silo. When in place, crewmen secured the Transporter Erector frame onto the pylons. Once ready, the trailer box cradling the missile slowly pivoted upwards via hydraulics until it stood vertically over the silo. Another team then retracted the launcher closure door beneath it. At this point, the missile would be slowly lowered into or raised from the silo. This operation could take three to four hours to complete. A newly-installed missile would have no guidance and control section or warhead. Other teams added these later in separate operations.  


    For periodic upgrades on-base, removing and replacing a warhead was also required. As this meant transporting nuclear weapons over long distances on public roads, it demanded some of the heaviest armed security in Strategic Air Command. The Reentry Vehicle traveled in a special tractor-trailer within a convoy. Twenty heavily-armed Security Policemen, divided among four armored vehicles and a helicopter for overhead cover, escorted this lone Reentry Vehicle and Guidance Control van. A United States Deputy Marshal headed the convoy to and from its destination.