The era of the Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, often credited with ending the Cold War, is coming to a close today with the final phase of the deactivation.
F.E. WARREN AFB, Wyo. – Senior Airman Sarah Holznagel, 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron maintainer, secures explosive ordinance on a Peacekeeper missile. (Photo by 2nd Lt. Josh Edwards)
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F.E. WARREN AFB, Wyo. – The era of the Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, often credited with ending the Cold War, is coming to a close today with the final phase of the deactivation.
The deactivation began October 2002 after President George W. Bush set a plan in motion in 2001 to reduce the country’s missile forces from 6,000 to between 1,700 and 2,200. Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to follow a similar plan.
The Peacekeeper is the most powerful, most accurate missile ever deployed, according to Lt. Col. David Bliesner, 400th Missile Squadron commander. It is capable of carrying up to 10 independently targeted warheads and was designed to strengthen the ground-based strategic policy of the United States.
The development of the missile system began in 1979. In 1988, the Peacekeeper became fully operational with 50 missiles deployed to Warren.
Each missile was built at a cost of about $70 million. The deactivation is estimated to save the Air Force more than $600 million through 2010.
“There are certainly conflicting emotions associated with deactivation of Peacekeeper and the 400th Missile Squadron,” said Colonel Bliesner. “Thinking about it on a national and global level, anytime we can reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world, it is certainly the best thing to do.”
Airmen from the 90th Missile Maintenance Group spend about 17 days deactivating each missile, while security forces ensure security of the removal.
Senior Master Sgt. Steven Levin, 90th Maintenance Operation Squadron training flight supervisor, has worked with the Peacekeeper since 1986 when he helped put up the first Peacekeeper site. Since then he has worked as a Peacekeeper guidance technician, team chief, quality assurance and was most recently in charge of the Peacekeeper deactivation office which developed the Phase 1 deactivation plan in 2002.
“When we brought it on line, it was very exciting,” said Sergeant Levin. “It has served its purpose and completed its mission.”
After deactivation is complete, missileers with the 400 MS will be either retrained as Minuteman III crewmembers or reassigned to other parts of the Air Force.
“There is a sense of nostalgia seeing something so powerful go away,” said Capt. Carrie Owens, 400 MS missileer. “We are all so proud of it.”
Capt. Lee Taylor, 400 MS missileer, agrees.
“We’ve spent a lot of our time here [in the missile field],” said Captain Taylor. “There’s a lot of pride that goes into this job.”
The final deactivation brings an end to the Peacekeeper’s more than 16-year history at Warren.
“We’re proud of what we’ve done,” said Sergeant Levin. “It’s time to move on. The mission is complete.”