Minuteman Missile

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The LGM-30 Minuteman is a U.S. land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), in service with the Air Force Global Strike Command. As of 2018, the LGM-30G Minuteman III version[a] is the only land-based ICBM in service in the United States.

LGM-30 Minuteman MissileDevelopment of the Minuteman began in the mid-1950s and as the outgrowth of basic research into solid fuel rocket motors which indicated an ICBM based on solids was possible. Such a missile could stand ready for extended periods of time with little maintenance and then launch on command. In comparison, existing U.S. missile designs using liquid rocket propellant required a lengthy fueling process immediately before launch, which left them open to the possibility of a surprise attack. This potential for immediate launch gave the missile its name; like the Revolutionary War's Minutemen, the Minuteman was designed to be launched on a moment's notice.

Minuteman entered service in 1962 as a weapon tasked primarily with the deterrence role, threatening Soviet cities with a second strike countervalue counterattack if the U.S. was attacked. However, the development of the U.S. Navy's Polaris missile, which addressed the same role, allowed the Air Force to modify Minuteman into a weapon with much greater accuracy with the specific intent of allowing it to attack hardened military targets, including Soviet missile silos.

Minuteman iii Missile First StageThe Minuteman-II entered service in 1965 with a host of upgrades to improve its accuracy and survivability in the face of an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system the Soviets were known to be developing. Minuteman-III followed in 1970, using three smaller warheads instead of one large one, which made it difficult to counter because the ABMs would have to hit all three widely separated warheads to be effective. Minuteman-III was the first multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) ICBM to be deployed. Each missile can carry up to three thermonuclear weapons, and were initially armed with the W62 warhead with a yield of 170 kilotons.

Peaking at 1,000 missiles in the 1970s, the current U.S. force consists of 399 Minuteman-III missiles as of September 2017, deployed in missile silos around Malmstrom AFB, Montana; Minot AFB, North Dakota; and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. The Air Force plans to keep the missile in service until at least 2030. It is one component of the U.S. nuclear triad—the other two parts of the triad being the Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), and nuclear weapons carried by long-range strategic bombers. More details