missile sites


Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, SD

During the Cold War, a vast arsenal of nuclear missiles were placed in the Great Plains. Hidden in plain sight, for thirty years 1,000 missiles were kept on constant alert; hundreds remain today. The Minuteman Missile remains an iconic weapon in the American nuclear arsenal. It holds the power to destroy civilization, but is meant as a nuclear deterrent to maintain peace and prevent war.

I went here in 2011 during a summer school program. Photos 3 to 5 aren’t mine.


Some near accurate quotes from my history paper

“Galileo theorised that the earth revolved around the sun, but the church though that the sun revolved the earth. The told Galileo to recant what he said immediately because they didn’t like being wrong. It’s no surprise that the reformation soon followed the renaissance”

“The America U2 spy planes saw the missiles sites as the flew over Cuba. They were shocked that the Soviet Union was doing exactly the same thing that the United States had done to them.”

“Luckily, Kennedy actually had some common sense-”

“-because women during this era were still expected to be good little housewives to men. Women that did study science and medicine were ridiculed by their peers and all their work was ignored because they were women or stolen and credited to a man.”

“(Who wrote this misogynistic quote?) I would say ‘it sounds like Donald Trump’ but it’s more than 140 characters”

Where Senility Ends

Summary: Logan cares for Charles in the silo. Did I already write this setting? Too bad, have another one. I don’t even know if it’s heartbreaking or just worn out anymore.

WARNING: a rather graphic quote from x-men is used, regarding Auschwitz. It’s marked with a (5), and is that entire paragraph. It can be skipped

Logan walked into the fallen silo and slammed the door closed, making sure Charles wouldn’t be startled by his sudden appearance. It had taken him several months to realize the professor wasn’t always home anymore, and the times when he wasn’t were coming more and more frequently. Especially as Logan found the necessary medicines harder and harder to come by. It wasn’t that Chuck was becoming senile. He would just lose himself in his powers more often.

It hadn’t been so bad when Magneto had been around to help draw out the younger man. Logan had always admired Erik for his ability to remind Charles of just who and where he was. But the first of the seizures had taken that option out of the equation rather soundly.

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A SEPECAT Jaguar GR1 of No. 41 Squadron, RAF, is serviced as a U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing taxis during Operation Desert Shield, 23 January, 1991.  An unsung workhorse and success story, the Jaguar proved a capable and resilient little aircraft, one surviving a hit from a Sam-7 or similar to the port engine during the conflict. In all they flew some 600 sorties without loss, destroying 15 Iraqi ships, before turning their attention to the silkworm missile and SAM sites as well as artillery batteries along the Kuwaiti coast, which threatened coalition warships. 

The Cuban Missile Crisis

At this time in 1962, the U.S. was in the thick of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Here’s a brief recap of what exactly happened during those thirteen days.

It’s not hard to imagine a world where at any given moment, you and everyone you know could be wiped out without warning at the push of a button. This was the reality for millions of people during the 45-year period after World War II, now known as the Cold War. As the United States and Soviet Union faced off across the globe, each knew that the other had nuclear weapons capable of destroying it. And destruction never loomed closer than during the 13 days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

In 1961, the U.S. unsuccessfully tried to overthrow Cuba’s new communist government. That failed attempt was known as the Bay of Pigs, and it convinced Cuba to seek help from the U.S.S.R. Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev was happy to comply by secretly deploying nuclear missiles to Cuba, not only to protect the island, but to counteract the threat from U.S. missiles in Italy and Turkey. By the time U.S. intelligence discovered the plan, the materials to create the missiles were already in place. 

At an emergency meeting on October 16, 1962, military advisors urged an airstrike on missile sites and invasion of the island. But President John F. Kennedy chose a more careful approach. On October 22, he announced that the the U.S. Navy would intercept all shipments to Cuba, but a naval blockade was considered an act of war. Although the President called it a quarantine that did not block basic necessities, the Soviets didn’t appreciate the distinction.

Thus ensued the most intense six days of the Cold War. As the weapons continued to be armed, the U.S. prepared for a possible invasion. For the first time in history, the U.S. Military set itself to DEFCON 2, the defense readiness one step away from nuclear war. With hundreds of nuclear missiles ready to launch, the metaphorical Doomsday Clock stood at one minute to midnight. 

But diplomacy carried on. In Washington, D.C., Attorney General Robert Kennedy secretly met with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. After intense negotiation, they reached the following proposal. The U.S. would remove their missiles from Turkey and Italy and promise to never invade Cuba in exchange for the Soviet withdrawal from Cuba under U.N. inspection. The crisis was now over. 

While criticized at the time by their respective governments for bargaining with the enemy, contemporary historical analysis shows great admiration for Kennedy’s and Khrushchev’s ability to diplomatically solve the crisis. Overall, the Cuban Missile Crisis revealed just how fragile human politics are compared to the terrifying power they can unleash.

For a deeper dive into the circumstances of the Cuban Missile Crisis, be sure to watch The history of the Cuban Missile Crisis - Matthew A. Jordan

Animation by Patrick Smith

Open Skies
TIME, 13 May 1957

Open Spies, first proposed by President Eisenhower in 1955, was a plan that would supposedly reduce the nuclear threat by allowing countries to aerially survey one another. It’s unclear whether Eisenhower was serious about the proposal, or whether it was simply a propaganda move, but at any rate the Soviets immediately rejected it. They came up with their own plan in response, which would have allowed partial aerial surveillance, mostly of Siberia in the USSR (which had no missile sites) and the western US (where most of America’s missiles were stationed). With such dicking around, It would not be until the fall of 1963 that a nuclear treaty was finally signed between the US and USSR.

‘You think wars get started because some old duke gets shot, or someone cuts off someone’s ear, or someone’s sited their missiles in the wrong place. It’s not like that. That’s just, well, just reasons, which haven’t got anything to do with it. What really causes wars is two sides that can’t stand the sight of one another and the pressure builds up and up and then anything will cause it. Anything at all.’
—  Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, Good Omens
Radkingrib’s Easy-As-Shit Guide to Spotting a Wild Weasel v2

   Here is my standalone guide and commentary on how to spot a Wild Weasel aircraft. This guide is simple yet comprehensive and will cover how to identify a Wild Weasel apart from a common fighter aircraft. We will also take a look at SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) aircraft, which do the same thing.

What is a Wild Weasel?

   The term Wild Weasel refers to aircraft that perform what is now known as Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses, specifically sniffing out and destroying Surface to Air Missiles. Wild Weasel mostly refers to aircraft of this role in the Vietnam Era and up to Desert Storm, but has become an unofficial title for modern aircraft of the same role.

   The term Wild Weasel was created in the Vietnam War as the Soviets began circulating the S-75 Dvina (NATO callsign SA-2 Guideline) Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM for short) among it’s satellite states. This missile was designed to kill heavy bombers but what was revolutionary about it was the fact that it was radar guided and pretty accurate, as well as being a high explosive missile the size of a telephone pole. The real danger is their mobility- able to be deployed almost anywhere and operated with relative ease- and the ability to conceal their position until the missile was well on it’s way. These missiles could hide, track, and kill practically any unsuspecting aircraft with little to no warning, and kill they did.

(Illustration of an SA-2 site in Southeast Asia)

(photo of an F-105 hit by an SA-2 over  North Vietnam)

   After a few American planes were shot down and the lethality of these weapons in the hands of the Vietnamese became apparent and conventional attempts at destroying SA-2 sites proved ineffective, the USAF created an experimental program called Wild Weasel, which would equip fighter aircraft with the means to detect and destroy these missiles by tracking their radar signal, kind of like a game of flashlight tag, only at Mach 1.

   General Wild Weasel tactics split a unit into two components, a “decoy,” and a “striker.” The decoy would fly ahead, spot the missiles, and distract them while the striker would swoop in and destroy the site. Decoys are almost always the dedicated Wild Weasel airframe, while strikers can be conventional aircraft, although a two plane team of both Wild Weasel aircraft has proven to be just as if not more effective, as the two can interchange on the fly.

   It was a dangerous task- among the most dangerous missions any airmen would undertake in Southeast Asia, but the program would see success, and the tools and methods pioneered over the jungles of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos continue today in SEAD. Numerous technologies in electronic warfare, ordnance, and air combat techniques were created by Wild Weasel and translate across the board to today’s aerial battlefield.

   In layman’s terms, a Wild Weasel aircraft hunts missiles on their own turf and has several characteristics unique to it’s field that other aircraft generally don’t possess all at once; a Weasel must be agile like a fighter, have a good sense of “smell” like an electronic warfare aircraft, and the firepower of a ground attack aircraft, all in one airframe.

How to Spot a Wild Weasel

There are a few things to look for on a Wild Weasel that can easily be noticed.

1) Two Seats: 

   A Wild Weasel aircraft generally has two crewmen: a pilot and an EWO (Electronic Warfare Officer). The idea is that the pilot does the flying and shooting from a background of air combat, and the EWO operates the radar and detection equipment from the background of Electronic Warfare (EWO’s like Jack Donovan were taken from duty on B-52′s and the like, and often were uncomfortable in the back seat of fighter jocks like Al Lamb, although teamwork often remedied this). Therefore a Wild Weasel aircraft should be a two seat variant of a single seat fighter.
*Note that some Wild Weasels and modern SEAD aircraft may not follow this rule; for example the modern F-16 Wild Weasel is a single seat aircraft, as modern doctrine dictates that the pilot multitask to avoid critical delays inherent to working with another crewman (kind of like how it’s sometimes easier to do a group project by yourself than with another person), although this may double the pilot’s load. Some aircraft like the EA-6B Prowler however still have multiple crewmen. This rule is a safer bet for Vietnam Era airframes like the F-105F/G.

(F-105F/G, noting the “pit” that houses the EWO)

2) Anti Radiation Missiles: 

   Using specialized equipment to detect a SAM site is less than half the battle; a Wild Weasel must be able to kill the site. In this vein, development went into making a weapon that functions like the opposite of a SAM; it uses the SAM’s radar signal and flies towards the site to kill a static missile site. The first of these is the AGM-45 Shrike, a repurposed Air-to-Air missile that could track a radiation source, adapted for Air-to-Ground duty. It was finicky, undersized, and had shorter range than the SA-2, but could hit a SAM site better than conventional rocket and bomb attacks could and helped Weasel pilots shoot what they sniffed out.

(Same photo as above, but pointing out the Shrike missile on the outboard hardpoint)

   Another Anti Radiation missile used in Southeast Asia was the AGM-78 ARM, which improves upon some of the limitations of the Shrike. This is a bigger missile that can pack more of a punch than the Shrike, although the per weapon cost was greater than the Shrike.

(F-105 Wild Weasel with both a Shrike and ARM missile, the latter being shown by the arrow)

   Modern Anti Radiation missiles include the AGM-88 HARM, which improves on the Shrike in just about every respect; it’s big enough to pack a punch against ground targets, and is much more reliable in tracking the target. These are employed today on modern jets.

(AGM-88 HARM missile on a Navy jet, presumably an EA-18 Growler, the Navy’s electronic warfare variant of the Super Hornet)

*This rule is not a strict requirement of Wild Weasel and SEAD aircraft. Early Weasels did not have Anti Radiation Missiles to use and had to rely on old fashioned rockets, bombs, and cannons to destroy SAM sites. After introduction, however, these planes rarely flew without them. 

3) Electronic Countermeasures:

    The Wild Weasel program ran in conjunction with Operation Iron Hand, the joint Air Force/Navy operation to eliminate Anti Air defenses in the Southeast Asian theatre, which meant there was some overlap in roles and technologies.

    The Navy, in the pursuit of hunting AA defenses, saw that chaff (deploying metallic debris behind the aircraft to create a false radar signature against radar guided missiles) wasn’t enough to stop SAM’s from killing their targets; the SA-2 would calculate the last known trajectory and simply airburst at the point of intersect, still killing the target. The Navy then decided to try another approach: jamming the missile directly. 

   This lead to the creation of an Electronic Countermeasures pod, a device that would fit onto a standard aircraft hardpoint like a missile would, and could be activated to put out a radar signal that would confuse the missile’s tracking, making it appear at a different spot or disappear altogether. This device changed the Electronic Warfare landscape and gave pilots a real shot at evading missiles that may be fired at them. This technology could also be installed permanently into the aircraft as an integral system, as is done on some modern aircraft like the F-15.

(F-4G Phantom II Wild Weasel with full Weasel loadout, including ECM pod)

*Note that sometimes this system is integral or not present on the aircraft as mentioned above. This means it may not be readily apparent that the aircraft has ECM. The F-105 Weasels didn’t have ECM, as they were employed as bait and ECM was seen as a detriment to drawing the missiles into giving away the site’s position.

4) Identification Markings

    This method of spotting is harder to look for but is a surefire method of telling apart a Weasel from an ordinary aircraft, and that is the markings of the aircraft. Wild Weasels in the 35th and 37th Tactical Fighter Wings, the main units for Wild Weasel and SEAD missions in the USAF, are given the tail code WW, as has been used in Vietnam. The first Wild Weasel squadron was the 354th Wing, and many followed with specific tail codes to look for. Knowledge of specific units is critical here, but seeing a WW code is easy to spot.

(35th TFW F-16′s out of Misawa, note the WW tail codes and full SEAD loadout)

   Other identifying markings on a Wild Weasel is the image of a Weasel and/or the acronym “YGBSM” (You Gotta Be Shitting Me, uttered by Jack Donovan and the motto of the Wild Weasel program). This motto is present on Wild Weasel patches and may be on the plane as well, although this isn’t consistent.

(This F-16 tail design from the 20 FW flagship F-16 #92-9320 is a good example of Wild Weasel markings without the WW tail code)

(A vintage Wild Weasel patch featuring the namesake and motto)

*Note that this rule is my personal final factor in determining whether the aircraft in question is indeed a Wild Weasel. If the plane possesses neither the markings nor the physical traits of a Weasel, it is indeed not a Weasel.

5) Airframes to Look For:

   Wild Weasels have taken many forms over the years. While the mission evolved during the course of the Vietnam War and after, so did the requirements of the airframes, and naturally these have changed numerous times. Knowing which planes were used as Weasels and which weren’t is critical to identification. 

   In Vietnam, the first Weasels were the F-100 Super Sabre, which proved to be ill suited for the task and had a high loss rate. This mission passed into the use of the F-105 Thunderchief, a much bigger and heavier aircraft but possessed the carrying capacity and speed necessary for the role. Attempts were made to use the F-4 Phantom II during the War, and through much trial and error these efforts eventually succeeded when the Thunderchief was put out of production, and this was used through the end of the War until the introduction of the F-16. The Navy put the A-4 Skyhawk to use as a Weasel in parallel with the Air Force’s Weasels.

(F-100F on the tarmac)

(Model of an Iron Hand A-4 Skyhawk, note the Shrike missile. This is not technically a Wild Weasel but performed as the Navy’s equivalent.)

The SEAD role is now passed to the F-16 Falcon, although some might argue that the Falcon doesn’t qualify as a true Wild Weasel, the argument being that the last aircraft specifically outfitted for Weasel duty was the F-4G, with the Falcon pulling duty due to it’s multirole nature. Nearly every former Wild Weasel unit operate the F-16, the rest being disbanded or repurposed, however.


   The modern term of SEAD is applied to what was formerly Wild Weasel. The nature of the modern battlefield means that what in the past had to be specially made into the airframes is now either standard with most fighters or is a modular system that can be put onto hardpoints. This is a good thing, as now the Navy can put the same equipment on an EA-18 Growler or F-18E Super Hornet that can be put on an F-16 or F-15E in the Air Force, which means saving money and time.
    What does this mean? This means an EA-18, normally a general electronic warfare jet, can be loaded with HARM’s, deploy off a supercarrier, and perfrom SEAD/DEAD (Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses) without being a permanent SEAD/DEAD aircraft. Similarly, the F-15E Strike Eagle, with it’s integral ECM, can be loaded to perform SEAD/DEAD in a pinch very similarly to how older Weasels have done before. 

More Info

   And there you have it folks! I hope you’ve learned something and enjoyed the read. The Wild Weasel program and missions are a very interesting topic to examine in depth. 
   While I am not able to give you more info on this right here, I can absolutely recommend checking out The Hunter Killers by Lt. Col (Ret.) Dan Hampton. Dan provides his own perspective on the story of the Weasels (as a former F-16 SEAD pilot and Air Force instructor himself), as well as providing first hand accounts of the pilots and EWO’s who flew in Southeast Asia and an in depth look at the political, technical, and strategic situation regarding the Weasels in Vietnam. I couldn’t recommend reading it any more than this; download/buy it and strap in for a ride.

(Cover of The Hunter Killers, featuring a Weasel crew and their Thunderchief)


The Cold War Relics Three Photographers Are Documenting Before They Disappear

It’s nearly nightfall and sage ranch park seems deserted. But just as we’re about to stop the pickup, headlights pass: cop car.

“Black-and-white!” Stephen Freskos yells ruefully from the passenger seat. It’s a bad omen for the plan that he and his two companions have made for their evening. They’ve chosen Sage Ranch, on the northwestern outskirts of Los Angeles County, as the departure point for an illegal infiltration into the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a massive former military installation closed to public view. Their goal: to photograph the site before it, like much of America’s hidden Cold War heritage, is demolished and swept away forever.

The three men—Freskos, a beefy construction manager; Scott Haefner, a wiry web developer with glasses, in the driver’s seat; and Jon Haeber, the smallest of the three and a preservationist by trade, in the back—have spent years exploring deserted spaces together. They started with vacant movie theaters and bowling alleys, then moved on to bigger game: resort hotels, Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, a mansion belonging to Steve Jobs. Now in their thirties, they’ve made a special study of military installations, the documentation of which they feel to be an important public service. During the past half decade, the three have penetrated an astonishing range of secret places, from a Minuteman launch control facility in South Dakota to a Titan II missile site in Marana, Arizona; from the Naval Air Warfare Center in West Trenton, New Jersey, to an Atlas E launch site outside Topeka, Kansas. In their home state of California, they’ve burrowed inside multiple former Air Force bases, four missile sites, and countless other forbidden military spots. This will be their eighth and likely final trip to Santa Susana, which tested ballistic-missile systems and spacecraft engines for the Army, the Air Force, and NASA from 1947 to 2006.

(Continue Reading)

Night Vale is the place where all conspiracy theories are true, and everyone accepts it. That’s why Cecil has died, not died, and also lived practically forever - because all of it is theorized, due to him being such a public figure. While Cecil may hate Steve Carlsberg’s conspiracy theories, they are part of what makes everything happen. The secret missile testing site is only there because Steve has a conspiracy theory about it.

Whether you’re a child of the ‘80s, a fan of the Terminator films, or just really bad at Missile Command, you’ve probably seen some pretty grisly images of nuclear holocaust. We assume that the people who defend against that looming apocalypse are all grim-faced, serious experts with decades of training. We spoke to one such defender – a former soldier responsible for guarding a nuclear missile site in West Germany during one of the Cold War’s most uncomfortably warm chunks – and here’s what he told us about how hilariously wrong all that “grim-faced expert” stuff was.

5 Things You Won’t (Want to) Believe I Saw Guarding US Nukes

An RAF Handley Page Victor comes in low across a Thor intermediate-range ballistic missile launch site - circa 1961. By this time both would have carried American-designed thermonuclear weapons, following the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement. Thor was after-all an American missile system. The Victor would have carried a 1.1 megaton Red Snow variant of the American W28 warhead, the Thor missile a 1.44 megaton W49 warhead.

You think wars get started because some old duke gets shot, or someone cuts off someone’s ear, or someone’s sited their missiles in the wrong place. It’s not like that. That’s just, well, just reasons, which haven’t got anything to do with it. What really causes wars is two sides that can’t stand the sight of one another and the pressure builds up and up and then anything will cause it. Anything at all.
—  Good Omens