Know Your Military

We Visited a Nuclear Missile Bunker

Nov. 30, 2018 | BY Katie Lange

Let’s be honest — who hasn’t wanted to visit a nuclear missile site? They’re super secret, high-tech and something you really only hear about on TV. But did you know you can actually visit one?

Missile Site 8 in Green Valley, Arizona, is a national historic landmark and the home of the Titan Missile Museum. The Air Force-owned property houses the only remaining Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile complex left of the 54 that were active during the Cold War. The site became a museum so the public could better understand one of the DOD’s biggest missions — nuclear deterrence.

“Our job in the Titan II program was to project a credible threat to the Soviet Union and to convince the Soviet Union that if they were to initiate a preemptive strike against the U.S., we would still be able to retaliate with such force and devastation that it would be suicide for both countries,” said museum director Yvonne Morris, who was also a crew commander at the site in the 1980s.

View of Titan II missile from above the silo.
Missile Silo
A Titan II missile in a silo at the Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley, Ariz.
Photo By: Courtesy photo
VIRIN: 080514-O-ZZ999-444

The Titan II was the largest land-based missile the U.S. ever deployed, standing about seven stories tall. It carried the W53 warhead — the explosive equivalent of 9 million tons of TNT.

“One Titan II could pretty much lay waste to about 900 square miles,” Morris said.

And no one wants that, hence the nuclear triad’s mission: peace through deterrence. It’s something Morris said is the biggest takeaway from the site.

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“You really don’t have a frame of reference for how these things work or what’s involved in maintaining them day to day. That’s one of the things we can provide here,” Morris said. “When people come here, they’re getting a pretty accurate picture of the life of people who do this kind of thing for the Air Force, and they’re getting a good look at the engineering requirements to launch a missile from an underground structure.”

So what does the bunker look like and how does it feel to take control in the launch room?