In Green Valley AZ, in the midst of a retirement community, tourists can touch the only preserved Titan II missile left in the world.
Fifteen miles south of Tucson, 140 feet underground, stands a monumental testament to the apocalyptic technology of the Cold War. The Titan Missile Museum is the only publicly accessible Titan II missile site in the country. The site is one of 54 Titan II silos in three separate silo fields that served as a nuclear deterrent from 1963 to 1984. A field of eighteen silos ringed Tucson, Arizona and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base; another eighteen were near Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas; and yet another eighteen circled McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas.
The tour begins above ground with the fueling vehicles, parts of the missile, engines, and security systems. Before the museum was built, this area would have been deserted except for the security devices, the communications equipment, and the fence.
Security above ground was provided by armed guards and laser/radar detectors (seen here). These radar surveillance security systems formed a ring around the silo topside and were the primary form of security at all missile installations. Extremely sensitive, they would sound a loud alarm in the control center if anything crossed their invisible beams. Then, security forces from nearby Davis-Monthan AFB would be dispatched to investigate. Given the secure nature of the missile complex, crew members would never go outside themselves.
Our German tour guide was full of energy.
Entering the same exact way the original missileers would have.
When personnel arrived at the base, they would get an authorization code to enter, then have three minutes to arrive at the first checkpoint (above) guarded by a CCTV camera. The theory was, if the personnel were being held captive and forced to enter the base, all they had to do was delay. Once three minutes were up, the base would go into lock down and security would be mobilized.
Part of the security measures to enter the underground silo included burning the authorization codes that were written down on a piece of paper and discarding the ashes into this red can.
I always feel like somebody’s watching me.
It was policy in the silo that no one was allowed to wander alone, except in the crews quarters. A “No Lone Zone” meant you were not permitted in the area by yourself. This was for two reasons; 1) Safety and 2) Security. They had to make sure no one was a spy.
After descending multiple flights of stairs, we then proceeded through two reinforced concrete doors — doors which weighed in at 6,643 pounds apiece. These doors, and the eight-foot-thick walls supporting them, would protect the inhabitants in the event of a nearby blast so that they could complete their mission.
These buttons controlled the blast doors.
…and how would I do that exactly?
Protective suits for use during fueling– the Titan fuel is poisonous and corrosive. The mottled tan appearance of the suits is due to them being patched and re-patched.
Retract free zone.
In the control room, our guide explained the launch procedure. The launch codes were kept inside a red cabinet, which required two combinations to be opened. Each crew member knew only one combination. Along with the launch codes, two keys were required…
…which had to be turned simultaneously and their switches were spaced far enough that it would be impossible for one man to activate them both.
Once the keys were turned, there was nothing anyone could do to stop the launch procedure. The missile would be on its way, destination unknown, in less than a minute from the time the crew received its orders.
All assy and shit.
One of the two 9 1/2 ft. diameter underground cableways connecting the missile silo and Launch Control center to the blast lock area.
The Nuclear Gage
When President Ronald Reagan decommissioned the Titan II program in 1981, Titan II silos were destroyed in Wichita, Kan., Little Rock, Ark., and Tucson. This particular silo was converted into a museum in 1986.
Just the tip, the nuclear tip.
Looking down into the silo from the topside; the closure door is now permanently fixed in a partially open position. As part of our treaty with the Soviet Union, the hatch doors and other parts of the silo were made inoperable. Russia still retains inspection rights to ensure that it is not an active weapons facility and inspectors last visited in 2011.