The Minuteman Missile

A Minuteman II missile test launches
A Minuteman II missile test launches


The Minuteman was - and still is today - a technological wonder. The first solid fuelled Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) the U.S. Air Force would deploy, the Minuteman could stand dormant and unmanned for days, weeks, months and decades on end, needing only limited maintenance and upkeep.

At A Moment's Notice

Remotely controlled from underground launch control centers miles away from the silos, it offered a hair trigger launch response. From the time keys were turned to execute a positive launch command, until the missile left the silo, only took about a minute. Hence the name Minuteman. The name was also a play on the same term used to describe America's Revolutionary War soldiers who responded within a matter of minutes to protect the homeland from the British.

Deployment - Past, Present & Future

The first Minuteman came online in Montana at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis on October 26, 1962. During the following year, 1,000 Minuteman's were placed across the central and northern Great Plains. They were deployed in six wings out of Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana (200), Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota (150), Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota (150), Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri (150), F.E. Warren Air Force Base (200) and Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota (150)

The Minuteman has gone through several upgrades over the years, increasing its distance, accuracy and efficiency. At present there are 400 Minuteman III missiles operational on the Great Plains. These are based out of Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, and F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.

To learn more about the four different types of the Minuteman deployed during the past half century click on the links below.

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    Part of a series of articles titled Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.

    Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

    Last updated: October 20, 2020