While the main purpose of our time in Tucson was exploring Saguaro National Park, I had a number of other itinerary ideas if the weather didn’t cooperate or we found ourselves with extra time on our hands, from driving the Mount Lemmon scenic byway to exploring the different districts in downtown Tucson.
As it turned out, we did have a couple hours to spare between our morning hiking in the park’s eastern / Rincon Mountain District and our flight home. It was really hot outside so walking around downtown wasn’t terribly appealing, and we didn’t have quite enough time to accomplish the nearby scenic drives.
Brian jumped in with a great solution that wasn’t at all on my radar – touring the sole remaining Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile facility in Green Valley just south of Tucson!
At the Titan Missile Museum, near Tucson, Arizona, visitors journey through time to stand on the front line of the Cold War. This preserved Titan II missile site, officially known as complex 571-7, is all that remains of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert across the United States from 1963 to 1987.https://titanmissilemuseum.org/
The Titan Missile Museum has online reservations for their guided tours that we found quick and easy to book on our phone on our drive there. Once we were on-site, we were also able to experience a self-guided tour of the outdoor space as well as peruse the museum exhibits in the lobby area.
There was hardly anyone there – we ended up with a great guide and just one other couple on our tour.
After a quick pit stop and walk around the museum exhibits, we were led into a small adjoining room to watch a video with information about the Cold War and the idea of strategic deterrence – maintaining viable retaliation systems to ward off attack. The Titan II missiles were designed to launch from underground silos across three U.S. states and hit their identified targets within 30 minutes of deployment. According to our guide, the targets remain classified to this day.
Following the video, we were led out to the stairway to the underground site. Our guide described how we would have had to pass through multiple checkpoints in order to reach our stations in the event we needed to activate a counterattack and the rules that accompanied the different areas, including who was allowed to be present where.
In the control room, we were led through a scenario where we’d been alerted that an enemy missile was heading toward its target in the U.S. We had orders from the president to launch our counter-attack and had to walk through all of the steps. I was the commander, and it was incredibly stressful!
After our internal tour, our guide left us to walk around the outside area where there were informational plaques to support the self-guided portion of our visit.
As the sole remaining missile site, this location had to meet a series of requirements from Russia at the end of the Cold War, including permanently opening the silo so the Russian government could fly over and ensure the site had been deactivated.
There was a platform surrounding part of the silo opening, giving you an overhead view of the missile. Our guide thought it was the most impressive view but our views alongside the missile from underground (pictured above) were honestly more impressive to me.
After our self-guided tour we had to catch our flight so we didn’t really get to look around the museum exhibit inside. From the few moments we were in there prior to our tour, it was clear to me there was lots of additional information about the site and those who served it.
If you’re interested in military or Cold Way history, you’ll want to put this museum on your list!
One thought on “Around Tucson: The Titan Missile Museum”
Very interesting! I remember Grandma talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and how very concerned she and Grandpa were about possible war with Russia. So when I se e you soon must I salute?!?!