Atlas F (SM-65F, HGM-16F)

Missile housed in an vertical silo with adjoining control center, hardened to 100 psi overpressure.

Inertial guidance system.

Filled with RP-1 while it sat on alert, LOX added at the start of the countdown, then raised to ground level by the massive silo elevator. The missile was exposed above ground for a much shorter time than earlier configurations.

Atlas F Units

576th Strategic Missile Squadron (SMS), Vandenberg AFB, California - Two site, one silo each, activated April 1958, closed April 1966.  Opened later in other roles.

550th SMS, Schilling AFB, Kansas, activated April 1961, closed June 1965.

551st SMS, Lincoln AFB, Nebraska, activated April 1961, closed June 1965.

577th SMS, Altus AFB, Oklahoma, activated June 1961, closed March 1965.

578th SMS, Dyess AFB, Texas, activated July 1961, closed March 1965.

579th SMS, Walker AFB, New Mexico, activated September 1961, closed March 1965.

556th SMS, Plattsburgh AFB, New York, activated October 1961, closed March 1965.

Each Operational base had twelve silos.  Three silos, one at Altus and two at Walker, were destroyed by accidents during propellant loading exercises.  

Combat Crews

Crews included two officers and three enlisted members, a missile maintenance, ballistic missile analyst and power production technician.

Crews were on alert for 24 hours, with a new crew departing the main base each morning to replace the crew on duty.  


Each Atlas F squadron was a free standing unit assigned to a bomb wing at the host base.  Most maintenance was internal, part of the Chief of Maintenance part of the squadron, which included specialists in all aspects required to maintain the missile, the site, the electronics and the reentry vehicle.  There were several hundred members of each squadron, with about 72 combat crews and a significant number of missile maintenance, missile facility, power production, missile electronics and other enlisted technicians in the unit.  In most cases, the propellant technicians, nuclear weapons technicians and real property installed equipment technicians were part of the host bomb wing.

Launch Countdown

After completing the classified emergency war order checklists, the crew would load LOX and then raise the fully loaded missile topside on the missile elevator for launch.  Once the elevator was fully up and locked, the launch sequence could be initiated.  The inertially guided missile could be launched in about 15 minutes.

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