MX stuff
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The LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBMs are the land-based nuclear tools that guard our country from nuclear attack by another nation, by virtue of counter-attack capability from widely-dispersed, hidden locations in the US. They are designed to carry 3 MIRVs but are currently limited to carry only 1 RV due to START treaty conditions.

Minutemans have been around since the early 1960's, and with upgrade programs to their motors and guidance now happening, will fly until 2020. There are 500 of these missiles fielded in the US.


building one of the many hidden, underground launch silos

the milkman delivers...

silo loading

silo loading

silo loading

silo loading

post-load missile arming

post-load missile arming

post-load missile arming

a finished site

another finished site

W87 nuclear warhead & re-entry vehicle (RV)

Autonetics D17B Minuteman Missile Guidance Computer

launch, start

launch, away

launch, ascent & accelerate

ascent close-up

ascent close-up

launch video (1.4 MB)

one of many RVs arrives


A successor to the Minuteman III, the LG-118A "MX" or "Peacekeeper" missile, was developed and fielded. The entire system is comprised of 50 missiles and many mobile railway launchers moving continuously (no fixed silos to take out on a first strike). However, START II honoring is deactivating all Peacekeepers through 2007 (in exchange for the USSR retiring their SS-18's) -- eventually leaving us only with MM III's for land-launched ICBM capability, plus a whole bunch of W87 warheads for Minuteman III or Trident II use.

The MXs are much bigger than the Minuteman IIIs, at 193,000 pounds (versus MM III's 78,000 pounds). Unlike the Minuteman, they don't "hot-launch" from their silos but instead get pushed out first to a substantial height above the silo before igniting (like the Trident SLBMs do). Like the Minuteman, they are designed to carry many W87-armed MIRVs (10 versus Minuteman's 3). Also, they have a comparable range of over 6000 miles and are traveling at 15,000 mph upon motor burnout. They had a major improvement over the Minuteman III in their guidance control, which has since been incorporated into the Minuteman IIIs via GRP (Guidance Replacement Program).


MX launch

(test launch from Vandenberg AFB)

MX launch


mobile launcher dwarfs nearby man

MX MIRVs' flight path traces

MX MIRV loading

(ten W87s per MX)

capping the MIRV load

Advanced Inertial Reference Sphere

(INS drift rates of less than 1.5 x 10^-5 degrees per hour of operation)

MX Launch video

(AVI, 1.6 MB)


For more detail on the MX, go here, or better yet here.


What's next? maybe Minuteman IV.

"Over the last year, the force applications team has secured SMC's role in the future missile system commonly referred to as Minuteman IV that hopes to be a $20-30 billion procurement between 2004 and 2040. New missions for the system include holding both hardened and deeply buried targets and strategic relocatable targets at risk. Concepts being evaluated for these missions may include an earth penetrator reentry vehicle or a "smart" maneuvering reentry vehicle. With respect to force applications, the Minuteman IV activity is simply the first initiative, among many, for possible future space weapon systems. In parallel with the Minuteman IV is another effort addressing conventional prompt global strike needs which is referred to as the Common Aero Vehicle (CAV)." Schriever Legacy Carries on in XR, The XR Report, A Quarterly Newsletter of the Developmental Planning Directorate, SMC, Vol. 3 no. 2, JanMar 2001.

The Air Force SAB Hypersonics Report described the Common Aero Vehicle program as follows:
"Boeing and Lockheed Martin have been participating in Air Force-sponsored studies of advanced maneuvering reentry vehicles, often referred to as CAVs (see Figure 21). These vehicles with high lift-to-drag ratios have no primary propulsion, but have movable surfaces to provide high cross-range capability. They are designed to carry conventional weapons (small bombs, submunitions, or penetrators) and can be deployed from conventional ICBMs or a hypersonic cruise vehicle operating at high altitude." (p. 35)

TRW (now Northrop Grumman) was awarded the prime ICBM integrator contract by the USAF in 1997, which gives them the responsibility to sustain and modernize all ICBMs. As such, they are expected to play a key role in the development of MM IV vendors, technologies, systems, and ultimately an overall vehicle. TRW has provided systems engineering and technical assistance to the ICBM System Program Office (SPO), now located at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, since 1954.


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This page was last updated on 02/19/05 .