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Inquiry Question

Historical Context

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Locating the Site


Map 2: 44th Missile Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base.[Map 2] with link to larger version of map.
(Library of Congress)

The 44th Missile Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base in western South Dakota consisted of 150 Launch Facilities (LF's)--or silos, which are underground shelters for missiles--and 15 Launch Control Facility (LCF) support structures (one for every 10 silos). The LCF had a facility manager, cook, and several security police who were stationed on the topside to provide support for two missileers stationed in a Launch Control Center (LCC) capsule below the surface, where military personnel monitored the systems and could send specific launch commands to the remote silos. Each silo held one Minuteman Missile. The silos were unmanned, independent, and dispersed across the high plains. The Air Force required that no silo be within three and a half miles of another. This was done so an explosion at the one facility would not destroy another facility. An underground network of communication cables interconnected the silos and support structures.

A "flight" was made up of 10 missiles. For example, support structure Delta-01 was in command of silos Delta-02 through Delta-11. Each flight of 10 missiles was part of a squadron of 50 missiles. There were three squadrons of 50 missiles in western South Dakota making up the entire 44th missile wing of 150 missiles. The missile field in South Dakota covered a vast region of approximately 13,500 square miles (an area larger than the state of Maryland).


Questions for Map 2

1. Locate Ellsworth Air Force Base. What is the distance to the furthest Launch Control Facility from the base? If you drove 60 miles an hour how long would it take to get from the base to this LCF?

2. Locate the Delta missile flight (hint: the map shows each flight by the first letter in its name)? Describe its location within the missile field?

3. Based on the information given above why do think it was better to have the sites spaced apart? Can you think of a different way to organize the missile field?

4. Compare Maps 1 and 2. Does Map 2 give you a better idea of the complex organization of these facilities? Why or why not?

* The map on this screen has a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi), and therefore will print poorly. You can obtain a larger version of Map 2, but be aware that the file may take as much as 30 seconds to load with a 28.8K modem.

 

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