"Defense is moral, offense is immoral", Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin, 1967

panoramic photo of Missile Site Radar
  Missile Site Radar, ©Art Maples

Located a few dozen miles from the Canadian border, the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex was the only operational Antiballistic Missile facility ever built by the United States. Originally envisioned as the first phase of a twelve installation defensive system, the Mickelsen Complex was designed to protect North Dakotas Minuteman Missiles from enemy missile attack.

Construction of the Mickelsen Complex was started in 1970. In 1972, construction of the additional installations was halted as the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to cap the number of interceptor missiles each possessed as part of the Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Later changes to the ABM Treaty further limited each country to a single ABM site. The Soviets elected to maintain a system they had constructed to protect Moscow, and the United States limited its system to the Mickelsen Complex.

The Mickelsen Complex was completed in 1975 but it was deemed to be ineffective against rapidly progressing missile technology and became inactive barely six months later. Within a year the missiles had been removed and the buildings salvaged. The Complex was transferred to the General Service Administration and it sat abandoned until 1991. With interest in missile defense systems growing in the early 1990s the U.S. Army again took possession of the facility. Although its future use is unlikely, the Mickelsen Complex is the only treaty-compliant ABM site the United States has and the Army is maintaining it in caretaker status for possible use in the planned National Missile Defense.

top floor of missile site radar
  Top Floor, Missile Site Radar, ©Art Maples
The core of the Safeguard Complex is the Missile Site Radar (MSR) site. Consisting of 430 acres, the MSR site houses an 80-foot tall, pyramid shaped radar building and underground silos designed to hold thirty Spartan long-range, and sixteen Sprint short-range nuclear-tipped interceptor missiles. Each face of the massive radar building contained a phased-array radar capable of tracking enemy missiles three hundred miles away. The MSR site also had a series of huge underground diesel generators, with giant intake and exhaust stacks sprouting from the ground adjacent to the radar building.

Spartan missiles were 55 feet long and had a range of over 400 miles. Spartan missiles were designed to shoot down enemy warheads before they reentered the atmosphere. Warheads that got past the Spartans would be targeted by the smaller, shorter range Sprint missiles.
Spartan Missile Silo
   Spartan Missile Silo, ©Art Maples


 References and Special Thanks