KLR650 Nuclear Missile Site Tour

The Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site is a retired Air Force nuclear missile site converted into a State Historic Site. The facility was closed in 1997 and its 10 nuclear missiles removed following a nuclear arms reduction agreement with the Soviet Union. The site is now open for public tours and here is some of what I saw during my visit to Oscar-Zero.

The hour long tour covers the above ground facilities that housed on duty Air Force security forces personnel and the missile alert crews who manned the site. This Launch Control Facility includes a security control center that screened everyone who entered the site, several offices, a recreation room, dining facilities, and sleeping quarters.

The decor is maintained as it was when the site was shut down.

I really wanted to see what was 50 feet underground where missile crews were ready to launch nuclear missiles if ordered by the President of the United States. A large, slow freight elevator takes you down to the Equipment Room and Crew Capsule. These rooms are on "floating" metal platforms attached to the ceiling by several of large green shock absorbers (center of the picture below) designed to dampen the shock from a nearby nuclear explosion.

Equipment Room
The Equipment Room houses air filtration, backup generators, and other critical machinery needed to ensure that Oscar-Zero could survive and operate after a nuclear attack. Most of this vintage equipment no longer works, but the folks who maintain this site are working to bring as much of it as possible back to life.

Other view of Equipment Room
A short passage way connects the Equipment Room to the Crew Capsule. Each of these rooms are sealed by gigantic, steel, blast doors that are several feet thick and designed to survive a nuclear explosion. The ramp in the picture below is for wheel chair access and was not part of the original layout.

View from the Equipment Room to the Crew Capsule

Door to the Crew Capsule with names of the last alert crew and date of closure.

If you have seen the 1983 movie "War Games", you have a good idea of what the Crew Capsule does. In this blast-proof room, two Air Force officers sat at two identical control consoles. If the launch order came, they each would confirm the order was authentic, and then insert a key into their console. Next, they would simultaneously turn their keys to complete the launch sequence. 

One of the crew member positions

The actual launch keys are still at Oscar-Zero, attached to their respective consoles. I was disappointed to learn that tour members are not allowed to sit in the seats. The Crew Capsule also contains a lot of communications equipment to ensure military command authorities could maintain contact with the missile alert crew. The Crew Capsule also has Air Force technical manuals, uniforms and other details that give a sense that the site is still operational. 

The tour was well worth the time and my guide, Nathan, really knew his stuff. He had never been in the Air Force, but had a real passion for military history and told me that he reads a lot on the subject. The site is a bit off of the beaten path, but worth looking into if you find yourself in the area of Cooperstown, ND. Below is a short video slide show of other pictures from my tour of Oscar-Zero.