Titan Missile Museum
Warhead stage at top of missile in silo.
Titan I Missile
Titan Missile Silo
The cabinet the launch keys were locked in.
Backstory and Context
The Tucson community stepped forward with the idea of preserving a part of aviation history by turning one of the soon-to-be-deactivated silos into a museum. The Tucson Air Museum Foundation agreed and the Air Force was approached with the idea. After much negotiation both within the U.S. government and with the Soviet Union it was agreed that one silo would be preserved for use as a museum. The one selected was located near Green Valley, AZ.
The silo was deactivated on Nov. 11, 1982 and after Soviet satellites were given time to verify that both the silo and the missile that would go in it had been rendered harmless, work began to set up a visitor center at the formerly highly guarded site. The Titan Missile Museum opened to the public in May 1986, ten years to the day after the opening of the Pima Air Museum, offering a rare look, both above and below ground, at the top secret world of a nuclear missile silo.(6)
The decision to build an ICBM weapon system originated in the late 1940s but was shelved due to budgetary constraints. After the Korean War, and following the detonation of the first thermonuclear bomb by the Soviet Union in 1953, the U.S. Government became convinced of the need for an ICBM weapon system, despite the cost. Valuable time had been lost and the Soviet Union was thought to be well ahead of the United States in the development of ICBMs. In 1954, Dr. John von Neumann presented the summary report of the Teapot Committee which had been formed the previous year to review the feasibility of strategic offensive missiles. The Teapot Committee urged the rapid development of both IRBMs and ICBMs. The need was urgent, and while money was not to be wasted, the committee recommended that time was of the essence and no effort should be spared.
In 1958, the Martin Company, designers of Titan, proposed the development of a second generation of the Titan missile, designated Titan II. Instead of taking 15 to 20 minutes to raise, fuel, and launch Atlas or Titan I missiles, the Titan II could be launched from the underground silo in less than one minute. Titan II contained an all-inertial guidance system and had a range of 6000 miles.
In October 1959, Headquarters USAF approved the development of Titan II. Three locations were chosen for its deployment. Two Strategic Missile Squadrons of nine missiles each were deployed to the 390th Strategic Missile Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona; the 381th Strategic Missile Wing at McConnell AFB, Wichita, Kansas; and the 308th Strategic Missile Wing, Little Rock AFB, Little Rock, Arkansas. The entire Titan II system was on alert by December 31, 1963.(7)