Last Minuteman III Missile Silo Destroyed

On August 24, the United States destroyed its last Minuteman III missile silo slated for dismantlement under START I. Demolition of the silo, located at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, takes Washington one step closer to meeting an upcoming treaty implementation deadline.

The START I accord requires the United States and Russia to deploy no more than 6,000 nuclear warheads on 1,600 strategic delivery vehicles by December 5. To help meet this deadline, the United States began destroying 150 Minuteman III silos in October 1999. It plans to retain 501 of these missiles, according to an administration official.

Washington intends to make other significant nuclear force reductions over the next few months to meet its START commitments, the official said. These include destroying one decommissioned Poseidon submarine and 15 B-52 bombers configured to carry air-launched cruise missiles. Washington will also reduce the number of warheads on each of its 192 Trident I missiles from eight to six and the number of warheads on 150 of its remaining Minuteman III missiles from three to one.

These reductions will put the United States “well below START limits,” with 1,238 delivery vehicles and 5,903 warheads, the official stated.

The official added that “it certainly appears the Russians are on track to finish on time.” Ukraine also has START-accountable delivery vehicles on its territory and is expected to meet the December deadline too, the official said.

START I entered into force in December 1994 and remains in effect until 2009, unless it is extended or superseded by a new nuclear reduction agreement. At a March 1997 summit in Helsinki, Moscow and Washington agreed to work to make the START I and II accords unlimited in duration but have not followed through on that commitment. START II, which would require both sides to reduce their arsenals to 3,500 deployed strategic warheads, has not yet entered into force.