Continuing with our time in Tucson, on Monday we drove to nearby Sahuarita to visit the Titan Missile Museum.
After watching a short video, we took a guided tour of the underground control center and saw the 103 foot tall Titan II missile in its underground silo.
We had an excellent guide who gave an in depth description of the missile facility. This was once an active intercontinental Ballistic Missile complex. Of the Titan II sites in the U.S. weapon system, this is the only one not destroyed. At one time there were 54 missiles sites, with eighteen each distributed over three locations (Little Rock, Arkansas, Wichita, Kansas and Tucson, Arizona).
The elevator into the underground silo was under maintenance so we took the 55 steps in and then back out, not too strenuous. Anyone over six feet tall was required to wear a hard hat because we were entering low areas and they didn’t want to risk anyone injuring their head. For sanitary reasons each hard hat had a hair net, giving the wearer an unusual look! Bill didn’t seem to mind. He is always such a good sport.
The Titan II is the largest ballistic missile developed by the United States. It can carry a warhead of nine megatons, equal to nine million tons of TNT. The amount of TNT needed to equal the explosive power of the Titan II warhead would require a train of 90,000 boxcars. The train would be 1,534 miles long, stretching from Tucson to Lexington, Kentucky. While we were in the launch command center the guide simulated what a launch would have been like. It was sobering and rather scary to think what might have been.
During the Cold War the facility, and others like it, was manned twenty four hours a day, waiting for the command to launch. While they waited, men and women worked keeping the extremely complex system of hundreds of electronic and mechanical systems which must interact perfectly with each other, safe and ready to fire.
There was an accident at a Titan II missile site in Little Rock, Arkansas.
A movie made for television, called “Disaster at Silo Seven” was filmed here. Also in 1996 part of the movie “Star Trek: First Contact” was filmed at this facility.
The power of the Titan wasn’t all potentially devastatingly destructive. When no longer needed as a weapon, the Titan also launched the Gemini Program’s astronauts into orbit, sent the Viking probes to Mars and launched Voyager into the outer solar system. While it can be said the Titan missile prevented a possible catastrophic war with the Soviet Union, it also advanced the exploration of space.
After our tour we walked around outside. We saw the cover over the missile which allows satellites from other countries to see the missile silo is inactive. Our guide told us we had to explain to our potential enemies why we wanted to keep one of the missiles instead of destroying them all.
Bill was also excited to find an amateur radio antenna where ham radio operators can bring their radios and talk to people around the world using this very large antenna.