Missile silo

A missile silo is an underground, vertical cylindrical container for the storage and launching of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). They typically have the missile some distance under the surface, protected by a large "blast door" on top.

Until the 1960s ICBMs had been launched from surface bases. The Soviet Union used completely aboveground launchers similar to those found at a spaceport, which made them vulnerable to US bomber attack. The missile silo was first suggested in the 1950s in the United Kingdom as a suitable housing for Blue Streak missiles. Only one test missile silo was built in the UK at RAF Spadeadam and with the cancellation of the Blue Streak project, the UK ICBM nuclear missile capability was transferred in 1960 to submarines; however the idea of the underground rocket bunker was adopted by the USA.

The US Atlas missile used four basing schemes. The first were vertical, above ground launchers at Vandenberg AFB, CA. The second was stored horizontally in a warehouse- / shed- like structure with a retractable roof at Warren AFB, WY. The third was somewhat better protected, stored horizontally in a concrete building known as "coffins", then raised to the vertical shortly before launch. These rather poorly protected systems were a side effect of the cryogenic liquid fuels used, which required the missiles to stand empty and then be fueled immediately prior to launch. The fourth version of the Atlas ICBM (the Atlas F) were stored vertically in underground silos. The Atlas was fueled in the silo and then had to be raised to the surface for launch. It could not be launched from within the silo. The Titan I missile used a similar silo basing scheme to the Atlas F.

Things changed with the introduction of the US Titan II and the Soviet UR-100 missile series. Both used new liquid fuels that could be stored in the missiles, thereby allowing for rapid launch. Both systems were then moved to the silo system. The introduction of solid fuel systems in the later 1960s made this even easier.

The silo has remained the primary basing system for land based missiles since that time. However, the increased accuracy of inertial guidance systems has since rendered them somewhat less protected than they were in the 1960s. The US spent considerable effort in the 1970s and 1980s designing a replacement, but none of the complex systems were ever produced. The US, the USSR, and China all developed mobile ICBMs as well, but only the Soviet Union and China put them into production.

* Mobile Protective Shelters (MPS) plan, in which 200 Peacekeeper missiles would be shuttled around between 4 600 soft shelters.
* Midgetman missile
* One version of Topol-M
* DF-31 (CSS-9): a Chinese road mobile ICBM (China also two older mobile IRBMs)

Today much of the US arsenal has been placed on submarines (as SLBMs), while Russia has downsized their own force to a handful of mobile and silo-based weapons and Delta IV submarines. China also has silo-based weapons, but is now concentrating development on expanding its submarine and road mobile weapon capability.

The increase in decommissioned missile silos has led governments to sell them to individuals, who then convert them to indisputably unique abodes. Notably, William Pickard was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture massive quantities of LSD in a decommissioned Atlas missile silo in Kansas.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • missile silo — /ˈmɪsaɪl saɪloʊ/ (say misuyl suyloh) noun an underground storage and launching site for a ballistic missile. Also, nuclear silo …   Australian English dictionary

  • missile silo — noun An underground vertical cylindrical container for the storage and launching of ICBMs …   Wiktionary

  • Missile launch facility — The cupola of an underground R 12U launching facility in Plokštinės missile base, Lithuania …   Wikipedia

  • Silo (disambiguation) — A silo is a structure for storing bulk materials.Silo may also refer to: * Silo (software), a 3D modeling software * Silo (store), a chain of retail electronics stores * SILO (boot loader), used in Linux * Silo (library), a data file format and… …   Wikipedia

  • Missile Badge — USAF Missile Maintenance Badge, basic The Missile Badge is a military decoration of the United States Air Force which was first created in the 1960s. The badge recognizes those commissioned officers and enlisted personnel of the US Air Force who… …   Wikipedia

  • silo — UK [ˈsaɪləʊ] / US [ˈsaɪloʊ] noun [countable] Word forms silo : singular silo plural silos 1) a tall round tower on a farm used for storing things such as grain, crops, and food for animals 2) a large underground structure for storing or… …   English dictionary

  • silo — /ˈsaɪloʊ / (say suyloh) noun (plural silos) 1. a tower like structure, proofed against weather and vermin, for storing grain. 2. a similar structure in which fermenting green fodder is preserved for future use as silage. 3. Also, pit silo.… …   Australian English dictionary

  • silo — si|lo [ saılou ] noun count 1. ) a tall round tower on a farm used for storing things such as grain, crops, and food for animals 2. ) a large underground structure for storing or protecting something: a nuclear missile silo …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Missile Balistique — Tir d un missile Titan II depuis son silo; cet engin fut opérationnel à partir de 1962. Un missile balistique est un missile dont une partie de la trajectoire est balistique, c est à dire influencée uniquement par la gravité et la friction… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • silo — [ silo ] n. m. • 1823; « cachot souterrain » 1685; esp. silo, et a. provenç. sil (XIIIe); lat. d o. gr. sirus 1 ♦ Excavation souterraine, réservoir (au dessus ou au dessous du sol) où l on entrepose les produits agricoles pour les conserver.… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.