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Self Sufficiency: Oscar-Zero’s Secret Weapon

Self- Sufficient: able to maintain oneself or itself without outside aid; capable of providing for one’s own needs.

Being prepared for anything has been a tactic employed by everyone from ancient warriors to the Boy Scouts. The Oscar-Zero Launch Control Facility (LCF), like many other Minuteman LCF’s, is a shining example of self sufficiency in the defense network. “The function of the LCF is to provide housing, protection and support to launch control operating personnel and equipment.”Constant connection with Grand Forks Air Force

The generator system is strategically discussed by the Air Force and the manufacturer in a 1964 mock up.

Base (GFAFB) created a constant supply chain of personnel, equipment, food, etc to Oscar-Zero (O-0). Inversely, O-0 sent back trash, used recyclable materials, and, of course, personnel that were going off-duty, creating circular chain of functioning. O-0 was self-sufficient at any given moment (a snapshot in time so-to-speak), but it could not be so without its strong connection to the GFAFB. Once that connection broke, the clock would begin running on O-0—it would survive for quite some time but eventually it would be depleted of supplies. Strategically created this way, Oscar- Zero relied on self-sufficiency to both protect itself from being infiltrated and to assure constant survivability in isolated conditions.

Strategic planning created the ability to sustain Oscar-Zero in a variety of conditions. Items like on-site fuel tanks kept gasoline for maintenance, security, and crew vehicles. While isolated, there was never fear of running out of fuel and becoming stranded at the site. On-site water tanks provided guarantee that water never ran out for showers, bathroom facilities, drinking, and most importantly fire fighting. Facility Managers checked these gauges on a daily basis to confirm all were working at a full level. If something was below regulation standard of operating, more was brought out and attended to immediately. On a regular basis, the site operated on power supplied by the local power company but there were two backup generators on site—one above ground and one below ground. These generators were available at any time to power the facility. Should the below ground

This gauge on a water tank was checked daily by the Facility Manager, to assure there was enough water for the site. The green was the ideal amount of gallons.

generator fail, the computers in the Launch Control Center would be powered by batteries—this backup to the backup ensured that the critical link between the control center and the missile silos was never broken. A large kitchen inventory that was carefully monitored by the on-site cook and regular replenished by vehicles from Grand Forks AFB. Also on site was a fully stocked linen closet that always had an abundance of supplies to keep the site comfortable and operational. Why the full capacity?

The next generation of present day Minuteman missiles still function off of self sustaining Launch Control Facilities. This Minuteman III missile is the next generation of the Minuteman missile.

A variety of reasons dictate the preparedness of every LCF. The missile field was a place where being prepared for anything was a requirement. The Air Force operated and maintained the world’s most powerful weapon–running out of things like fuel, water, food, or power while operating and securing those weapons was simply not acceptable. Additionally, the more things the LCF could do for itself, the less contact with the outside world the site required. Security was an essential priority, and the less movement through the gates of the facility required a lesser chance for infiltration by any potential security threats. Most importantly, preparing for the worst was required. In a worst-case scenario, the ability to keep the facility running to operate and secure the missiles would be of the highest importance. While some of the dooms-day scenarios seemed like unlikely occurrences, they also had practical applications when weather turned for the worst. Many former employees remember being trapped at the LCF for what seemed like days on end during winter months, and the independence of the site set their minds at ease.

Self sufficiency allows the Launch Control Facility, and therefore the missile field, to run smoothly. This system is in practice at active missile sites today, and has positively served the nation’s ICBM force for over forty years.

1.  Technical Manual, Operation Instructions, Minuteman Weapon System T.0.21M-LGM30F-1-13, 1986.

All Photos Courtesy of Association of Air Force Missileers

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2 Comments

  1. Linda Darling says:

    These articles are wonderful! Written so all of us can understand so much better what these sites are all about! Thank you.

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