Atlas F 579-5 Missile Silo

Visited 2015.10.05
Near Roswell, New Mexico

Way out in the middle of nowhere, I decided to stop and visit this silo that looked abandoned and accessible from google’s satellite view. It ended up having a gate when I arrived, so I parked at the road and went in on foot. The entrance to the launch control center was visible as I approached. I peeked inside, but the stench of bird crap and fetid water was more than I could handle. Then, walking around the silo cap doors, I found out the silo wasn’t abandoned after all… someone was calling it home.

Site activated: 1962
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, and the Atlas F sites, like the one I visited near Roswell, were the first ICBMs to be stored vertically in an underground silo. The Military Standard offers a good description with more detail:

“Final operational version of Atlas ICBM. Differed in guidance systems. Deployed as missiles from 1961 to 1966. After retirement, the ICBM's were refurbished and used over twenty years as space launch vehicles.

The Atlas F was the final and most advanced version of the Atlas ICBM and was essentially a quick-firing version of the Atlas E, modified to be stored in a vertical position inside underground concrete and steel silos. When stored, the Atlas F sat atop an elevator. If a missile was placed on alert, it was fueled with RP-1 (kerosene) liquid fuel, which could be stored inside the missile for extended periods. If a decision was made to launch the missile, it was fueled with liquid oxygen. Once the liquid oxygen fueling was complete, the elevator raised the missile to the surface for launching.

This method of storage allowed the Atlas F to be launched in about ten minutes, a saving of about five minutes over the Atlas D and Atlas E, both of which were stored horizontally and had to be raised to a vertical position before being fueled with either RP-1 (kerosene) liquid fuel or liquid oxygen. Atlas F missiles were deployed at Schilling Air Force Base, Kansas, Plattsburg Air Force Base, New York, Lincoln Air Force Base, Nebraska, Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas and Walker Air Force Base, New Mexico.”

From my collection of General Dynamics material, I actually have an original site activation guide book for the Atlas F silo. You can see an excerpt below, and read the entire thing with all of the technical details in the downloadable PDF.