Cold War Era Missile Officially Retired

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LAYTON, Utah (AP) -- The missile that served as a deterrent to a Cold War clash between the United States and Russia was officially deactivated and retired Thursday in a ceremony at Hill Air Force Base.

The Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missile was built, but never fired. It carried up to 10 nuclear warheads and enough firepower to destroy hardened missile silos and command bunkers.

"This is the world's most powerful weapon that was never fired, yet won a war," Col. Michael J. Carey, commander of the 90th Space Wing at a Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo., said at a ceremony thanking Hill employees for maintaining the missile since it became operational in 1988.

The United States began removing the Peacekeeper from its weapons arsenal in 2002 under an agreement with Russia for both countries to reduce missile stockpiles to fewer than 2,200 munitions.

The 50 Peacekeeper missiles, which had been stored in silos in three western states, were hauled to Utah by truck and train, with their warheads already removed by the Department of Energy.

Each missile's three booster rocket motors will be used to build up the national defense system, while others may be used to launch satellites, said Col. Michael Altom, commander of the 309th Missile Maintenance Group at Hill.

No layoffs are anticipated at the Utah base because of the Peacekeeper deactivation, he said.

Utah will keep 63 of the rocket motors at Hill and at the Utah Test and Training Range, he said.

Those will continue to be maintained by the ICBM Program office at Hill along with 500 Minuteman III missiles in silos in North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.

Each Peacekeeper cost the Air Force an estimated $70,000 to build. Without the missile in the nation's arsenal, Air Force officials expect to save more than $600 million through 2010.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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