Minuteman II and the beginning of Hill AFB’s ICBM support
By Jonathan Bingham, 75th Air Base Wing History Office
/ Published May 04, 2020
Editor's note: This feature is part of a Hill Air Force Base 80th anniversary series. These articles will feature the base’s historical innovations and achievements, and will highlight mission platforms that have been operated and supported throughout the decades.
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Much of Hill Air Force Base’s west area became part of the Boeing-operated Air Force Plant 77 in 1960.
The aerospace contractor and Hill AFB worked vigorously throughout that year and the next to build the infrastructure needed to assemble and sustain the Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) system.
Some of the larger construction projects included the building of an additional 40 storage igloos, eleven warehouses, and nine missile assembly buildings.
The installation also constructed a Missile Motor Surveillance Facility complex, which served as an aging laboratory that allowed for temperature and humidity controlled conditions to simulate the environment the missiles would encounter in their hardened silos. Engineers used this facility to determine long-term storage effects on the solid fuel motors.
The Ogden Air Materiel Area (OOAMA) modified four of these storage facilities to also simulate extreme arctic and tropic conditions. This successful project ran for ten years and produced very significant results that led to improved ability to sustain the Minuteman missiles for decades past their initial anticipated service life.
As with the development of most weapon systems, engineers and technicians continued to development improvements for the weapon system even as the development phase of the Minuteman ICBM came to a close and operational production began.
Only two years after the first operational Minuteman ICBMs departed Hill AFB in 1962 for their missile wing, the Air Force’s Strategic Panel approved the construction of a Minuteman Engineering Test Facility at the installation (now called the Strategic Missile Integration Complex or SMIC).
Officials conducted a ground-breaking ceremony for the facility Feb. 19, 1965, and then dedicated it Jan. 19, 1966, after the completion of construction. Only a year-and-a-half later the installation needed to break ground for a Minuteman II test facility and add it to the growing complex in order to increase the reliability and operational effectiveness of the Minuteman II missile.
The mid- and late-1960s also brought other changes to the Minuteman program. Hill AFB transported the first Minuteman inert second-stage motor June 11, 1964, from the installation to the Hill Air Force Range at Lakeside, Utah (now the Utah Test and Training Range or UTTR), where OOAMA technicians used it for training purposes and for checking the integration viability of equipment facilities there.
On May 25, 1965, Boeing completed assembly of the last Minuteman I missile at Plant 77. Boeing and Hill AFB officials conducted a ceremony in Missile Assembly Building 2401, during which the Air Force accepted the missile. This did not end Minuteman missile production. On August 1, 1965, the first advanced Minuteman II missile came off the Plant 77 assembly line.
The first excess Minuteman missile arrived at Hill Air Force Range April 26, 1967, for storage and eventual use in support of special test programs. The range facility possessed the capability of storing up to 64 missiles.
In September 1968, Hill AFB transported the 100th missile to Hill Air Force Range. Boeing completed assembly of the final force modernization Minuteman II missile at Plant 77 May 6, 1969, and began assembly of the Minuteman III missile.
This ended a decade of great technological achievement, during which Hill AFB played a critical role in supporting the testing and implementation of the technical upgrades necessary for the force modernization of the Minuteman ICBM weapon system.