Black and white photos courtesy of Minot AFB.
Minuteman Missiles - 455 Strategic Missile Wing
In 1961, the Air Force
selected the land around Minot for a new Minuteman I Intercontinental Ballistic
Missile (ICBM) complex. Minot became a Strategic Air Command base on July 1,
1962, pending the imminent activation of Minuteman I-B missile launchers.
The Corps of Engineers Ballistic Missile Construction
Office (CEBMCO) oversaw the construction of the 150 silos and 10 launch
complexes spread over a 12,000-square mile area. The prime contractor was the
Peter Kiewit Sonsí Company, which received the contract on December 22, 1961,
with a bid of $67.8 million. Field construction began on the missile complex in
January 1962. At the peak of construction, Kiewit brought in 6,000 men with
1,100 vehicles and 115 cranes to ensure on-time completion of the contract.
The 450th Bomb Wing
The inactive 450th
Tactical Fighter Wing was redesignated the 450th Bombardment Wing Heavy and
activated on November 15, 1962. It was organized February 1, 1963 at
Minot AFB, North Dakota, where it replaced the 4136th Strategic Wing. It
trained in global bombardment and air refueling operations. Added post attack
command and control system (PACCS) airborne launch control system (ALCS)
missions in 1967 and began active PACCS/ALCS missions in February 1968.
Organizational Changes - 5th Bomb Wing & 91st Strategic Missile Wing.
Minot AFB's organizational
makeup changed in mid-1968, when the 5th Bombardment Wing replaced the 450th
Bombardment Wing and the 92st Strategic Missile Wing replaced the 455th. .
These changes were in line with the Air Force policy of keeping active those
units with the most illustrious histories. The 5th BMW added Short Range
Attack Missile's to its arsenal in September 1973, and later equipped its
bombers with an improved offensive avionics system for more accurate bombing.
The 5th BMW activated the Air Launch Cruise Missile on B-52H in October 1989.
characterized Minot AFB during the 1970s. The Air Force selected the 91 SMW to
become the first wing to convert to the Minuteman III ICBM. The Minuteman III
tripled the striking power and enhanced the credibility of the SAC deterrent
force. The 741st Strategic Missile Squadron became the first operational
Minuteman III squadron in December 1970, and the entire wing converted by
December 1971. The 5 BMW added the Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM) to its
arsenal in September 1973, and later equipped its bombers with an improved
offensive avionics system for more accurate bombing.
Following the 1980 Iran hostage crisis, SAC tasked the former 57th Air
Division to organize the Strategic Projection Force. The 57th AD became the host
unit, providing logistical, security, administrative and other support services
to the 5th BMW, 91st SMW and tenant organizations. In the early 1990s the
base prepared for change as the Air Force directed reorganization. Here, the 5th
Bomb Wing assumed host base responsibilities.
In 1988, the Air Force selected Minot AFB for the Commander-in-Chief's
Installation Excellence Award. This presidential award recognizes those military
installations that combine mission excellence with the concern for people to
produce working and living conditions truly above other installations.
The 5th Bomb Wing is a major Air Combat Command unit and host wing on
Minot AFB. Operational control, command jurisdiction and administrative
responsibilities of the wing are exercised by Eighth Air Force located at
Barksdale AFB, La. The chain of command extends to the Air Combat Command and
Headquarters United States Air Force.
Boeing B-52H Stratofortress aircraft allow the 5th BW to achieve its mission:
"A dedicated team...ready to deliver massive firepower worldwide, on time, on
target, every time." Recent changes in the emphasis of bomber force readiness
away from the nuclear standoff role mean a sharper focus on conventional combat
capability. The 5th BW is at the forefront of this ability, maintaining a busy
schedule for deployments to train realistically.
Entering the 1990's, Minot AFB demonstrated it's war fighting capabilities by
deploying aircraft and personnel to the Middle East for the overwhelming victory
over Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. The "Cold War" came to an end and the
5th BW aircraft came off alert status in September 1991 after 35 years of
Being one of only two B-52 wings, the 5th BW has had a very active schedule
over the past two years. Recent deployments to MIGHTY FORCE, COALITION FLAG, and
CORONET AQUARIUS, along with several taskings flown directly from Minot AFB. The
wing became the first unit to deploy B-52s to Iceland in exercise NORTHERN
VIKING in July 1995. During the winter of 1995, the wing became home to the
first female combat-qualified B-52 crew member. In June 1996, the wing flew a
GLOBAL POWER mission with the secretary of the Air Force. It was the first time
any SECAF has flown on a GLOBAL POWER mission. The flight gave the secretary
first-hand knowledge of the capabilities of the B-52 to support Americanís
To perform its mission, and to support the mission of the 91st Space Wing,
four groups are assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing. These are the 5th Operations
Group, 5th Support Group, 5th Logistics Group, and 5th Medical Group. In
addition, the special staff functions of 5th Comptroller Squadron, Plans,
History, Legal, Chaplain, Safety, Command Post, Arms Control, Inspector General,
Social Actions, Public Affairs, Manpower and Quality are assigned under the
director of staff.
91st Space Wing
The 91st Space Wing is one of the Air Forceís three operational
missile units. The mission of the 91st SW, whose members are known as the Rough
Riders, is to defend the United States with safe, secure intercontinental
ballistic missiles , ready to immediately put bombs on target, while
deactivating remote sites at Grand Forks AFB, N.D. The 91 SW is an element of
20th Air Force, headquartered at F.E. Warren AFB Wyo., which is a component of
Air Force Space Command, located at Peterson AFB, Colo. The on-alert missiles
assigned to the 91st SW are under the operational control of the nationís
strategic war-fighting command, U.S. Strategic Command, headquartered at Offutt
The wing controls 150 Minuteman III missiles, located over an 8,500 square
mile area in north central North Dakota, approximately the same size as the
state of Massachusetts. Each missile is located in an unmanned remote site
called a launch facility. All LFs are located at lease three nautical miles
apart and situated in unpopulated areas. The missiles are housed in hardened
underground silos. Each launch facility has all the equipment needed to maintain
the missile in a ready-to-launch condition. All activities at the LFs are
monitored and controlled from remote, manned launch control centers. Each LCC is
part of a missile alert facility. The wingís 15 MAFs are comprised of a topside
facility, which is continually manned by a minimum of eight people, and an
underground complex consisting of an LCC and an underground support building.
The wing has approximately 1,500 operations, maintenance, security, and
support personnel working together to keep missiles on alert. The wing is made
up of two groups, the 91st Operations Group and the 91st Logistics Group. Five
squadrons, a helicopter flight and a standardization/evaluation division are
assigned to the 91st Operations Group. Three squadrons and a quality assurance
section are assigned to the 91st Logistics Group. In addition, the special staff
functions of manpower and quality, financial management, safety, and history are
assigned under the director of staff. The plans and inspections office reports
to the wing vice commander.