Minuteman III: Celebrating a half-century of continuous alert


By Josh Roth and Eric Fetters-Walp


For 50 years and counting, the Boeing-built Minuteman III ICBM has been on the clock in hardened underground silos across the Great Plains — serving with rare distinction and longevity as the ultimate deterrent to an attack on the nation and its allies.

For 50 years and counting, the Boeing-built Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, has been on the clock in hardened underground silos across the Great Plains — serving with rare distinction and longevity as the ultimate deterrent to an attack on the nation and its allies.

When it first went on alert in August 1970, the weapon system was as revolutionary as the famed Massachusetts militia it was named after. Five decades, eight presidents, 17 secretaries of defence, and countless upgrades and test launches later, it remains as integral to national security as the minutemen were to the American Revolution.


Today, the Minuteman III ICBM is still in service as the ground-based leg of the nuclear triad that current U.S. Secretary of Defence Mark T. Esper called “the most important part of our military” and Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett described as “essential to deterring threats against the U.S. homeland.”

Ted Kerzie, director of Strategic Deterrence Systems, said: “The idea behind the weapon system is to ensure peace through overwhelming strength.”

Over the past half-century, thousands of Boeing employees have worked alongside airmen to keep it operational and ready around the clock. Today, these women and men work in thick-walled test labs overlooking Utah’s Great Salt Lake, in environmentally controlled facilities in central Ohio and on manufacturing floors in Alabama’s storied “Rocket City.”

Kerzie and others on the program, many Air Force veterans themselves, stress how proud they are to have maintained and tested the readiness of the system for so long. “What we do is incredibly important, not only to our team and the company but to the country,” said Joe Clark, a former airman who supports the Minuteman III from the state-of-the-art, Boeing-operated Little Mountain Test Facility outside of Ogden, Utah.

And a few have even watched up close as, with a loud roar and sun-bright burst of fire, an unarmed Minuteman III flies a high arc over the Pacific Ocean during critical test operations. Most importantly, these routine tests are the only time that the weapon system is or ever has been deployed.

“We’re proud to continue Boeing’s long legacy of support to our national security,” said Monica Fredrickson, test conductor for the Minuteman ICBM Flight Test, Telemetry and Termination system. “Or, as it’s been driven to us, our national imperative to make sure the system is working and that the rest of the world knows it.”

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