Titan II Missile

Tucson, AZ

Monday was a rainy, windy day with clouds completely covering the Catalina Mountains to our north.  At times the sun would peek through and create beautiful rainbows.

Rainbow over the cloud obscured Catalina Mountains

Tuesday morning dawned clear but cold and revealed a new covering of snow on the mountains.  The pictures above and below are both taken in the same direction.

Fresh snow on the Catalina Mountains

We were scheduled to go hiking with Hans and Lisa on Tuesday, but with the cold temperatures, gusting winds, and warmer weather in the forecast for later in the week, we decided to postpone the hiking and visit the nearby Titan Missile Museum.

This preserved Titan II missile site, officially known as complex 571-7, is all that remains of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert 24 hours a day across the United States from 1963 to 1987.  Located about 15 miles south of Tucson, it is now a museum run by the nonprofit Arizona Aerospace Foundation and includes an inert Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile in the silo, as well as the original launch facilities.  The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1994.

Our tour guide was a former Air Force officer who had been stationed at the site during its operational years, so she had first hand knowledge of how the site operated.  The tour began with a 17 minute video explaining the entire Titan program, then moved down 55 steps into the missile control center.

A brief intro before we move underground

The entrance: 55 steps lead to the control center

The Missile Control Center

The silo became operational in 1963 and was deactivated in 1982 in the Reagan Administration’s policy of decommissioning the Titan II missiles as part of a weapon systems modernization program.  All operational Titan II silos throughout the country were demolished, including 18 sites around McConnell AFB in Wichita, Kansas, 17 sites near Little Rock AFB, Arkansas and 17 other sites around Tucson, with the exception of this one.

The 103 foot Titan II missile inside the silo has neither warhead nor has it ever been fueled, allowing it to be safely displayed to visitors. When the silos were deactivated, all the missiles were removed and either destroyed or used to launch satellites.  The one on display was assembled from parts used at Air Force training centers.  In accordance with a US/USSR agreement, the silo doors are permanently blocked from opening more than half way. The dummy re-entry vehicle mounted on the missile has a prominent hole cut in it to prove it is inert.

Looking at the top of the missile from inside the silo

Looking back down from one of the skylights seen in the previous picture

The fuel used in the Titan was highly toxic, so anyone involved in its transfer from a vehicle to the rocket wore one of the protective suits pictured below.

The tour itself was very interesting and informative.  But it was also very cool to exit the underground area to bright sunshine and a beautiful view of the snow-covered Santa Rita Mountains to the south.

Tomorrow the forecast is for clear skies, moderate winds, and temperatures in the mid-60’s so we plan to meet Hans and Lisa in the morning and do some serious hiking.

More on that later . . .

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13 Responses to Titan II Missile

  1. Erin says:

    Ahh yes … this brings back memories of our trip to the area many years ago … doesn’t look like the museum has changed much since then, although I’m not sure I remember the museum building itself or the video.

  2. Gay and Joe Taylor says:

    Hope you get to go on your hike today…..i enjoy your pictures!

  3. Bob and Jo says:

    Looks like a neat tour, have to add it to our list.

  4. Marsha says:

    Great photo of the rainbow. I love rainbows.
    Titan Missile Museum was in my Top 10 favorites things we did in Year 3. You got some great pictures.
    Enjoy that hike. Hope the weather corporates.

  5. This bring back memories of what we did a few weeks back. It was a very informative tour and luckily it remained unused. We have the same weather pattern, rain, wind and snow and beautiful rainbow. Nice photos too! So the serious hiking means Romero Pools ? right? You’ll love it!

  6. libertatemamo says:

    Very cool set of shots!! We are definitely adding this to our must visit list in Tucson!

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