Saturday, December 26, 2009

Missiles VR Panorama

Currently, seven missiles are on display in this gallery. They are, from left to right, starting at the gallery's entrance:
  • Chrysler SM-78/PGM-19A Jupiter
    The Jupiter Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM), in service from 1960 to 1963, was an important link between early, short-range rockets and later weapons that could reach any point on Earth. Jupiter was a close relative of the Army's Redstone missile, and its development began in 1956 as a joint U.S. Army and U.S. Navy project. Rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun conceived the Jupiter after the Redstone proved successful, and rockets with a range of up to 1,500 miles seemed possible. Soviet development of similar missiles around the same time underscored the need for Jupiter. Jupiter missiles were used in a series of suborbital biological test fights.

  • Douglas SM-75/PGM-17A Thor
    Fearful that the Soviet Union would deploy a long-range ballistic missile before the United States, in January 1956 the Air Force began developing the Thor, a 1,500 miles (2,400 km) intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). The Thor program unfolded with amazing speed, and within 3 years of the program’s inception the first of twenty Royal Air Force Thor squadrons became operational in the UK. The UK deployment carried the codename 'Project Emily'. One of the advantages of the design was that, unlike the Jupiter IRBM, the Thor could be carried by the USAF's cargo aircraft of the time, which made its deployment more rapid, although the launch facilities were not transportable, and had to be built on site. The Thor was a stop-gap measure, however, and once the first generation of ICBMs based in the United States became operational, existing Thor missiles were quickly retired. The last of the missiles was withdrawn from operational alert in 1963.

  • Martin Marietta SM-68A/HGM-25A Titan I
    The Titan I was the United States' first true multistage ICBM. It was the first in a series of Titan rockets, but was unique among them in that it used LOX and RP-1 as its propellants, while the later Titan versions all used storeable fuels instead. The program began in January 1955 and took shape in parallel with the Atlas (SM-65/HGM-16) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The Air Force's goal in launching the Titan program was twofold: one, to serve as a backup should Atlas fail; and two, to develop a large, two-stage missile with a longer range and bigger payload that also could serve as a booster for space flights. Each Titan I missile squadron was composed of three extensive underground launch complexes. these were composed of a control center, powerhouse, and two antenna silos for the guidance radars. There were three missile silos, each of which had a propellant terminal and equipment terminal nearby. All these facilities were underground, and connected by tunnels. The distance between the antenna silos and the most distant missile silo was between 1,000 and 1,300 feet. These were by far the most complex, extensive and expensive missile launch facilities ever deployed by the USAF. When the storable fueled Titan II and the solid fueled Minuteman I were deployed in 1963, the Titan I and Atlas missiles became obsolete. They were retired from service as ICBMs in early 1965. The Titan II remained in service until the 1980s however, as it carried a much larger payload (a multi-megaton hydrogen warhead) that could be used as an effective "city buster".

  • Martin Marietta SM-68B/LGM-25C Titan II
    The Titan II ICBM was the successor to the Titan I, and carried a payload twice as heavy. It also used storable propellants, which reduced the time to launch and permitted it to be launched from its silo. Titan II was the longest-serving ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) in the U.S. Air Force strategic arsenal. The SM-68B, developed from the Titan I ICBM, was on operational alert from 1963-1987. For most of its nearly 25 years of operation, Titan II was the largest and most powerful American nuclear-armed missile. The Titan design also enjoyed a long career as a space launch vehicle, sending satellites and manned spacecraft into earth orbit.

  • Thor Agena A
    Thor-Agena was a series of orbital launch vehicles. The rockets used Thor first stages and Agena second stages. The U.S. Air Force launched the world's first space photo reconnaissance satellites using a rocket like the Thor Agena A on display. These satellites, secretly code-named Corona, took pictures of the Soviet Union's bomber and missile bases during the Cold War. The USAF and the Central Intelligence Agency jointly managed Corona, which was known to the public as the Discoverer research satellite program.

  • Boeing LGM-30G Minuteman III
    The LGM-30 Minuteman is a U.S. nuclear missile, a land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). As of 2009, it is the only land-based ICBM in service in the United States. It is complemented by the sea-launched Trident missile SLBM and by nuclear weapons carried by long-range strategic bombers. The “L” indicates that the missile is silo-launched; the “G” indicates that it is designed to attack ground targets; the “M” indicates that it is a guided missile. The name “Minuteman” comes from the Revolutionary War’s Minutemen. It also refers to its quick reaction time; the missile can be launched in about 1 minute. The Air Force planned to keep the missile in service until 2020, but it may be upgraded to stay in service until 2030. The current Minuteman force consists of 450 Minuteman III missiles in missile silos around F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming; Malmstrom AFB, Montana; and Minot AFB, North Dakota.

  • Boeing LGM-118A Peacekeeper
    The Peacekeeper was the U.S. Air Force's most powerful, accurate and technologically advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) when it served as a deterrent from 1986 to 2005. The USAF began planning for a missile to replace Minuteman ICBMs in 1972, and named the projected weapon "missile X," or MX. It would use the latest targeting technology to deliver many independently targeted nuclear warheads by each missile. The ability to deliver several warheads on one missile is known as MIRV, or Multiple Independently targeted Re-entry Vehicles. MX eventually was named Peacekeeper and designated LGM-118A. Under the START II treaty, which never entered into force, the missiles were to be removed from the U.S. nuclear arsenal in 2005, leaving the LGM-30 Minuteman as the only type of land-based ICBM in the U.S. arsenal. Despite the demise of the START II treaty, the last of the LGM-118A "Peacekeeper" ICBMs (but not their warheads) were decommissioned on September 19, 2005. Current plans are to switch 500 decommissioned Peacekeepers' W87/Mk-21 warheads to the Minuteman III. Among the reasons cited for decommissioning of the Peacekeeper ICBM was its failure to achieve the program's range objectives.

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