Return to the front line of the Cold War at the only remaining nuclear missile silo left in the United States!
The Titan Missile Museum is not your regular museum. Located in the middle of the small town of Sahuarita outside of Tucson, Arizona, the site holds a (non-functioning) Titan II ICBM, with a 9 megaton warhead capacity. The silo became operational in 1963 and was deactivated in 1982 as part of President Reagan’s policy of decommissioning the Titan II missiles. All operational Titan II silos throughout the country were demolished, including 18 sites around McConnell AFB in Wichita, Kansas, 17 sites around Little Rock AFB, Arkansas and 17 other sites around Davis-Monthan AFB and Tucson (Wikipedia). The TMM is the last remaining nuclear silo in the United States, now converted into a public museum.
The tour starts with a brief video explaining the silo’s part in the Cold War, and how it was mostly meant to deter the USSR from attacking/retaliating the States. After that you’re given your hard hat and descend into the actual bunker. After 50 or so steps, you approach the blast door; the blast door is 3 tons, surrounded by eight ft thick (2.4 meter) concrete and steel walls. You then walk through a long steel and concrete hallway that was designed to withstand the forces created by a missile launch. The tour then arrives at the control center, where four operators oversaw the information being sent to and from the silo, as well as to launch the missile itself. Here is where the tour started to give me chills: the guide casually talked about how, in the case of a launch, the crew would have a 30 days air supply. If that ran out they then had a choice: “suffocate, or face a new world up above”. Not exactly the most uplifting museum….
Anyways, the guide then goes through the sequence to launch the Titan missile, which thankfully is overly complicated. Permission from the President must be given, target coordinates are sent in, the launch keys are taken out of the double-locked safe, then two people must turn the keys and initiate the actual launch. While my group took the regular tour, there is also a “top to bottom” tour which must be reserved months in advance. Why? Their website explains that this tour is five hours long, and that “You must be at least 18 years of age, able to climb a 15-foot (4.5 m) ladder and fit through holes 2 feet (0.6m) in diameter to go on this tour.” If you got the guts (and money) for this tour, I would say do it!
How powerful is the 103 ft (31 meter) tall missile? Wikipedia explains: Assuming a detonation at optimum height, a 9 megaton blast would result in a fireball some 4 to 5 kilometres (2.5 to 3 miles) in diameter. The radiated heat would be sufficient to cause lethal burns to any unprotected person within 28.7 kilometres (17.8 miles) (995 square miles). Blast effects would be sufficient to collapse most residential and industrial structures within a 14.9 kilometre (9.2 mile) radius (300 square miles); within 5.7 kilometres (3.5 miles) virtually all above-ground structures would be destroyed and blast effects would inflict near 100% fatalities. Within 4.7 kilometres (2.9 miles) a 500 rem dose of ionising radiation would be received by the average person, sufficient to cause a 50% to 90% casualty rate independent of thermal or blast effects at this distance.
Going to a place like the Titan Missile Museum really shows just how important nuclear disarmament is; the world could be a much better place without these oversized death machines.