Delta-01 Launch Control Facility

Snow on the ground at a closed, fenced compound
A Delta-01 winter scene

NPS/E. Leonard

Quick Facts

Launch Control Facility (Topside)

This building functioned as topside support for the underground Launch Control Center which lay 31 feet below the Launch Control Facility (LCF). It acted as a multi-purpose facility. 

The topside supported the missileers stationed underground in carrying out their mission. Equipment such as a backup generator for auxiliary power, and environmental control provided backup support in the event of a power outage or an attack. There were always eight people on the topside, all enlisted Air Force personnel who were stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, 60 miles to the west. These personnel included a Facility Manager (top ranking Non-Commissioned Officer on-site), a cook and six security police. They worked three straight days on, followed by three days off.

In addition, the site had bunk housing for visitors, such as maintenance teams who were required to remain over night at the nearest LCF if they exceeded 16 hours in a work shift at one of the missile silos. They would spend the night at the nearest LCF before driving back to Ellsworth Air Force Base the following day. The building also contained a Security Control Center, where all security activities were coordinated and personnel would be processed when coming on site. Other areas on the topside included a day room, dining area and recreational room that Air Force support personnel used while at the facility.

Launch Control Center Delta-01

For every 10 Minuteman nuclear missiles (known as a Flight) there would be an underground Launch Control Center (LCC) that remotely commanded and controlled the missiles. Since there were 1000 Minuteman Missiles across the upper Great Plains from the early-1960s up until the mid-1990s, there would have been 100 Launch Control Centers. The LCC at Delta-01 was 31 feet beneath the ground of the Launch Control Facility.

Two missileers worked and lived on 24 hour alert duty shifts within the LCC. There was an eight ton blast door that had to be opened from within before an oncoming Missile Combat Crew could enter the LCC. The two person crew would spend most of their time monitoring the status of their 10 missiles. Among their other work duties was authenticating message traffic, remotely monitoring maintenance at the silos and assisting with the dispatch of security police if any motion sensing alarms were tripped at the silos. When the missileers were not performing work duties they would pass time by reading, watching television or studying for master's degrees through a special Air Force educational program. There was also a bunk provided for one missileer to sleep while the other crewmember kept an eye on the weapons system. As one former missileer, David Blackhurst, once said, missileer duty was "hours and hours of sheer boredom, punctuated by seconds of panic."

Missileers waited and waited over several decades for a launch command they hoped would never arrive. If the command to launch was given, it would have come in the form of an Emergency War Order (EWO).

Visiting Delta-01

All ranger-led tours of the interior of the Delta-01 facility require advanced reservations. 

Last updated: June 27, 2018