C-11. near Max, North Dakota.
Just behind the chain-link fence sits one of 150 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles armed with nuclear warheads that were deployed across 8,500 square miles in North Dakota between 1962-1963 during the Cold War nuclear arms race with Russia. The missiles remain active in their silos more than 50 years later, armed and targeted on locations across the North Pole to the Eurasian continent as part of the US military’s nuclear triad defense system. Each day 15 teams of two missileers strap themselves into red chairs in underground blast-proof bunkers for 24-hour shifts, each two-person team overseeing a flight of 10 nuclear tipped ICBM’s. The hardware and software that control the warheads consist of refrigerator sized computers and antiquated floppy disks that have been scantly updated since their construction.
This is the first post from a project I’ll be rolling out over the next month that documents the Cold War-era missile defense system in North Dakota and the people that live next door to some of the most powerful weapons on earth.
Be sure to check out the work Ian Bates and Jim McAuley’s produced from the same trip traversing North Dakota.