Atlas E 548-2 Missile Silo

Visited 2015.11.21
Near Lawrence, Kansas

On a bright, chilly afternoon, some friends from Lawrence and Kansas City hopped in the ERV and accompanied me on a missile silo visit. I wasn’t sure who the owner was or where they lived, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to look if there was no gate. We were there around 45 minutes or so, before the owner showed up, cussed us out and asked to leave immediately. We complied.

Site Activated: 1960
Site Deactivated: 1965

Additional Details and Coordinates

Photo of Operational Site

Atlas was the the world’s first ICBM, developed and produced for the USAF by Convair-Astronautics, a division of General Dynamics. This particular site was an Atlas E, one of the earlier types of underground missile silo the US operated.

The Military Standard offers a good description of the missile and silo:

“Essentially an upgraded and modified Atlas D missile, the Atlas E featured an upgraded propulsion system that increased liftoff thrust by about 8%, resulting in greater range. It also had an all-inertial guidance system that reduced dependence on ground crews, which afforded a significant technical advantage to the operational Atlas ICBM fleet, effectively removing pressure from ground stations during flight. On July 6, 1961 a Cape-launched Atlas E completed a successful test flight of 9,054 miles. This established a distance record for the Atlas ICBM which was never broken.

Atlas E was specifically designed to be housed in underground facilities at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Forbes Air Force Base, Kansas and Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming. They were stored horizontally in underground hardened shelters. Prior to launch, they would be raised to their vertical position then fueled. These shelters were nicknamed "coffins" and the Atlas E was nicknamed "the coffin bird" because the missile was often covered with a thin layer of earth while in storage. Covering the Atlas E missile body with earth, much as an actual coffin would be covered with earth during burial, provided about 25 pounds per square-inch of pressure on the missile body, helping to prevent overpressure when the missile was in storage.”