Monday March 27th 2017
I got back into tourist mode today with a visit to a Cold War relic. It was a sunny day around 80 degrees with a strong wind this afternoon. About mid day I headed south to the Tucson area.
About 30 kilometers south of Tuscon is the Titan Missile Museum. Interstate 19 from Tucson south to the Mexico border uses metric measures on signs. The only signs in non metric measures are the speed limit signs. I don’t know if this is some strange experiment or a legislative curiosity, but it is apparently the only place in the country that uses the metric system. It’s just weird. The museum is located at an old Titan II missile silo that was decommissioned in 1987.
The site was one of a 54 Titan II missile complexes in Arizona, Arkansas and Kansas. Today it is the only site the silo hasn’t been demolished. This one is dedicated as a museum complete with the original training ICBM in the silo. A tour takes you down to the control room and view portal to the missile in the silo.
The control room is at the bottom of 55 stairs about 35 feet underground. You pass through what was several levels of security to reach the heavy blast doors. After passing through two blast doors you are in an area that is stabilized by huge springs and hydraulic equipment to withstand nearby strikes from incoming missiles. The control room and crew quarters are further isolated to withstand attack.
The docent very dramatically describes life during a 24 hour shift and the actions that the crew of four would go through if they received a launch order. The two keys getting turned at the same time you see in movies is true, but there is no big red button. The ICBM was capable of delivering its 9 megaton payload 6300 miles away in 30 minutes. An air burst over the target would do up to 900 square miles of destruction.
After the tour you can wander around the surface area of the missile site. The heavy blast doors over the silo have been modified with a Plexiglas viewing window. You can look down at the missile and the fake warhead. It’s interesting to remember that the titan II rocket was also used to launch the NASA Gemini missions.
I enjoyed the tour very much. The Titan II missile systems had there life during my life. This provides a particular context for me to appreciate the tour. Some of the younger people on the tour weren’t born until after the missile was decommissioned. One boy around twelve or thirteen was most impressed with the dial telephone on the wall.