George Graham

Does America Still Have ICBMs and When Would They Be Used?

If you’re as old as I am you may recall the days of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles, the Strategic Air Command and the Nuclear Deterrent. If my memory can be trusted, these were parts of a strategy that would make America invulnerable. The missiles were aimed at targets in such threatening places as Russia, and they would carry nuclear warheads. This controversial and very expensive program was designed to keep the Russians and other Bad People at bay.

missileWhatever happened to that program? Does the U.S. still have ICBMs? And if it does, when – and how – would they be deployed?

To find out, I searched the Web and found an enlightening article in an edition of Air Force Magazine posted some three years ago. The article described a complete overhaul of the American missile defense program (at a cost of billions). It told how older missiles have been scrapped and newer missiles put in place. And it described in detail the deliberations that have taken place about the use of conventional – as well as nuclear – warheads.

Here’s a paragraph I found especially interesting:

For the Air Force missileers, life hasn’t changed much and it won’t for the foreseeable future. Two-man missile combat crews still sit in buried, blast-resistant capsules under the Great Plains, each team directly responsible for overseeing and controlling 10 missiles while providing support for 10 more.

Presumably, the government expects to fire these missiles some day. As former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said on Larry King’s CNN show last night, when nations stockpile arms the arms tend to get used. So what will the targets be? And what about the probable repercussions?

RussianI wondered about these things today when I read a news report quoting Russian General Anatoly Nogovitsyn (photo at left) as warning that if NATO establishes a missile defense post in Poland it would invite attack, possibly with nuclear weapons.

America’s conventional forces are stretched to the breaking point by commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, so there is little probability that Russia’s provocative invasion of Georgia and saber rattling opposition to a NATO missile shield would trigger a response by conventional U.S. forces. But what about those ICBMs? Is some highly placed U.S. official pondering their use as I write this blog?

Is the world teetering on the brink of annihilation while those talking heads on TV chatter on about John Edwards’ infidelity, and the most important item in Yahoo News is Tyra Banks’ latest hairstyle?

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for