Thursday, November 15, 2012

And Then There's This...

From the Usual USAF Source...
Minuteman III Test Shot from Vandy: The 30th Space Wing successfully launched a Minuteman III ICBM over the Pacific Ocean on a test shot from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., early Wednesday morning. Air Force missileers initiated the launch from a Navy E-6B Mercury Airborne Command Post aircraft instead of the more usual ground facility, proving the functionality of the Airborne Launch Control System. "Team Vandenberg and our mission partners' teamwork delivered another successful launch from America's West Coast spaceport," said Col. Brent McArthur, 30th SW vice commander in a Nov. 14 wing release. The ICBM fitted with an inert reentry vehicle blasted off from Vandenberg's Launch Facility 10 at 3:07 a.m. West Coast time. Air Force Global Strike Command personnel from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., and 625th Strategic Operations Squadron at Offutt supported the operational test under the supervision of Vandenberg's 576th Test Squadron.
Ah... 0307 hrs: just an early wake-up call.  Those of you Gentle Readers who have been with me for a while might remember this:

Discovery Goes Up and a War Story

Occasional Reader Rob sent along a link to this video of Thursday's Space Shuttle launch...

Pretty cool, eh?  Watching this video fired off some long-dormant synapses about other such launches I saw in the way-back.  From my reply to Rob:
Today's (very short) war story...  The video reminded me of watching missile launches at Vandenberg AFB, where I was stationed for a lil over three years.  I arrived there as a jeep two-striper back in '64 and moved into the barracks, as all young troops do.  The first week I was there I was awakened around 0200 hrs by some violent shaking, accompanied by a dull rumble-roar.  Now, I'd been in a few earthquakes as a child and recognized the feeling...  I lept out of bed and literally ran out of the barracks on to the lawn in my underwear, yelling "EARTHQUAKE" at the top of my lungs to wake up the other guys who might be sleeping through this.  And all I got for my concern was angry shouts of derision (and worse) from my fellow airmen, who were NONE too kind.
One of the guys did take pity on me as I walked back in, extremely red-faced and about to fuckin' DIE from embarrassment.  "That was a Titan," he explained.  "You won't feel the Minutemen or even hear 'em until long after they're gone, and the Atlas launches aren't nearly as bad... but yeah, a Titan launch feels just like an earthquake."  The launch pads were about three or four miles from our barracks.
I saw hundreds of launches over the course of the next three years and was also involved in a project to see if our air defense radars could pick up ballistic missile launches (they couldn't and didn't, but that was long ago and radars have changed, along with the times).  That was pretty cool because I was tied into the Vandenberg launch control center in order to start my scope camera three minutes before launch.  I then got to step outside and watch the missile go from our mountain top, which looked exactly like the shuttle launch from that airplane.  Pretty cool, in other words.
You can't possibly imagine how embarrassed I was about that "earthquake" thing, Gentle Reader.  Military guys ain't supposed to panic, for starters, and we're supposed to know every-damned-thing about our service, on top of that.  I betrayed both principles in that episode and it took me quite a while to live that down.

Discovery launch photo from the Daily Mail link, above
Yup... we were SERIOUSLY embarrassed in the way-back.  One wonders if any jeep airmen ran yelling and screaming from their barracks yesterday morning.  Prolly not, though... those Minutemen get out o' the hole QUICK.


  1. If it makes you feel any better Buck, I have my own earthquake story. In which I did NOT cover myself with glory. Here 'tis:

    Germany, spring of 1992. The family and I have been in Germany for a bit over three months (IIRC) and I'm from a pretty earthquake-free area of the planet. Our bedroom was kinda cathedral-ceiling, but way-less-grand. But it did have big wooden (approx 8"x8") beams.

    It's the middle of the night when something woke me up. There I was, all bleary-eyed trying to figure out "what the hell"? As I looked upwards, there are those big beams, and they're visibly moving, side to side. At least a few inches either way.

    Bear in mind I'm near-sighted, if it ain't in my face and my spectacles are elsewhere, all is a blur past a range of about a foot. And those beams were a good five feet away. And they-were-by-God-moving-a-lot.

    So of course, now as the Missus is waking up, I grab a hold of her and (as I claim) bellow, "OMIGOD WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!" As the quake subsided, I manage to (ahem) calm myself.

    The Nuke (my oldest daughter) tells the story a bit differently. She claims that I was "squealing like a little girl", not bellowing out our forthcoming doom. But believe me, I was, for all intents and purposes, sore embarrassed in the eyes of my progeny. No, they have not let me forget that night. Oh, the Missus prefers the kids' version of the story. Not mine. Go figure.

    FWIW, Germany had not a quake of that magnitude (epicenter not far from where we lived) since around 1742. For you edification vis a vis these Teutonic quakes (heh) see

    1. Heh. I'll come to yer aid here: women are FAMOUS for making stuff up. Just sayin'. ;-)

      Great story!

  2. AFSC/Ballistic Sytems Division(Norton AFB) developed the Atlas, Titan, Minutemen and the ICBM Reentry Vehicles. I was in the ABRES SPO (Systems Project Office) where the R & D took place on the Minutemen MIRV reentry systems. The Titan carried a huge RV, thus the thrust to get it into flight. The Minutemen was a MIRV system with independent multiple vehicles and 1/2 the size of the Titan RV.

    It's important at least in my opinion to keep the Minuteman in the deterent force. There are 450 currently in silos. Earlier this year a panel headed by a Marine General recommended that the Minutemen force be deactivated. The current ICBMs are a deterent and need to be kept online.

    The test shots normally impact on Kwajalein atoll and the RV's tracked as they enter the lagoons.

    1. AFA keeps me well and truly in the loop where misguided... at best... people (like General Cartwright) are concerned. I agree with you, totally, that the Minutemen should be retained. The one-worlders, while no doubt motivated by sincere thoughts and beliefs, are entirely misguided on this subject.

  3. Your earthquake story is a good one, although I'm sure it was embarrassing. You men are so macho :)

    I once had a near death experience and I was not too proud of my last words or actions.

    1. It WAS embarrassing... to the MAX. I can't think of any near-death experiences I've had, outside of some hangovers.


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