The LGM-30A/B Minuteman I was an intercontinental-range, silo-based, solid propellant ballistic missile. A second-generation US missile, it was the first solid propellant design developed by the United States. It was the first of the family of Minuteman ICBM missiles which was planned to counter the increasing size of the Soviet ICBM force. The Minuteman I, like the rest of the Minuteman series, was a small, reliable, and inexpensive missile designed for large-scale deployment. The missile was revolutionary in that it lacked stabilization wings and fins, relying on internal stabilization mechanisms which have since become standard.
The Minuteman I was a strategic asset designed to threaten the heartland of the Soviet Union. Equipped with a large warhead, the Minuteman I was fully capable of destroying major population centers. However, its accuracy was such that it would have been unable to destroy hardened targets. Protected from attack by both hardened silos and large numbers, the Minuteman I secured the US nuclear force against a Soviet strike. During a nuclear conflict, the Minuteman I missiles would have launched over the North Pole to destroy cities in the Soviet Union, compensating for its single warhead and small size with the large numbers.
The LGM-30A Minuteman IA had a range of 10,000 km (6,213 miles) for its single Mark IV Reentry Vehicle (RV). This RV carried a single W-59 nuclear warhead which had a 1 MT yield. The system used an inertial guidance system with a pre-programmed digital computer with an unknown accuracy. This accuracy was probably in the area of 500-1,000 m CEP, given the accuracy on the comparable systems of the day. It had a length of 16.45 m, a maximum body diameter of 1.88 m, and a launch weight of 29,500 kg. It had a three-stage solid propellant design. The LGM-30B Minuteman IB model was identical in all respects to the Minuteman IA except for an increased length of 17.0 m and a slightly greater range.
The Minuteman I missile entered development in the late 1950s with production bids starting in 1958. The first surface launch test occurred in 1961 at Cape Kennedy. The Minuteman IA entered service in 1962 at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, with the Minuteman IB entering service at four other bases during the following year. The complete run of 800 missiles had been manufactured by June 1965. The Minuteman I series started to be replaced by the LGM-30F Minuteman II in 1965, and all had been retired by 1969. In 1974, it was shown that the Minuteman I could be successfully air-launched from a C-5A transport aircraft. 1
- Lennox, Duncan. “LGM-30A/B Minuteman I (SM-80/HSM-80A).” Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems (Offensive Weapons). October 13, 2011. (accessed September 12, 2012). ↩