Strategic Air Command
SAC Bases:  Minot Air Force Base

     The 150 nuclear-tipped Minuteman ICBMs buried in the prairie around Minot Air Force Base, ND, remain as much on alert today as during the Cold War. And B-52s still rumble down the concrete runway of the former Strategic Air Command stronghold in Americaís midland. In addition to Minuteman ICBMs, Minot AFB hosted another type of strategic missile, once the assigned B-52H bombers were modified to carry Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs). Since President George H. Bush ended nuclear alerts, emphasis at the northern tier base has changed.

Before SAC
In the early 1950s, the Cold War was warming up, so military leaders feared a possible threat of northern attack of the North America by enemy bombers. Air Force Leaders began looking for possible sites for air bases in the northern United States. The city of Minot sold the Air Force on becoming a site for a new base in 1954. The following year Minot businessmen and citizens donated approximately $50,000 to buy the first portions of land for the base. The ground breaking took place July 12, 1955, and construction soon started.
      Minot Air Force Base started out under the control of the 32nd Fighter Group and the Air Defense Command in February 1957. A year later, the 32nd USAF Dispensary opened to provide immediate medical care to the base populace. Facilities opened gradually. Personnel celebrated the first church service on July 4, 1958 and the opening of the Base Exchange on September 1, 1958.
    In 1958 Air Defense Command established a Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) sector at Minot AFB. Construction of a huge, windowless blast-resistant concrete building started in July. IBM engineers installed two gargantuan 275-ton computers in the building. Activated in June 1961, the SAGE facility processed air surveillance information and sent data to Air Defense Command units. As Minot's mission changed, the SAGE center was deactivated in May 1963 and eventually housed numerous base agencies. Today is known as the Professional Results In Daily Endeavors (PRIDE) Building.
The 4236 Strategic Wing
      The Russians use of a missile to place the Sputnik Satellite into orbit sent shivers down the back of SAC.  It's B-52 wings contained 45 aircraft, making them prime targets for attack.  This led to the concept of establishing strategic wings.  Each of the wing's three squadrons was redesignated a strategic wing.  The 4136th Strategic Wing was activated at Minot on Sept. 1, 1958.  This was the first permanent SAC unit assigned to the base.  The 906th Air Refueling Squadron
was activated and assigned to the 4136th.  It provided air refueling support to northern defense operations. The first KC-135A Stratotanker, dubbed "Miss Minot," arrived September 23, 1959. In addition, there was one U-2 aircraft stationed on base for 18 months as part of "Operation Crowflight."

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.
Force modernization 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 continuous alert.
      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 global interests.
      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 AFB Neb.
       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.

"The times they are a-changing" ... Bob Dylan
The various disarmament treaties call for on-site inspections.  Obviously the Russians want to know what's going at Minot.  The Entrance sign now welcome them in their own language.