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News > Russians visit, confirm Malmstrom ICBM launchers eliminated under treaty
Russians visit, confirm Malmstrom ICBM launchers eliminated under treaty

Posted 4/21/2014   Updated 4/21/2014 Email story   Print story


by John Turner
341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

4/21/2014 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Inspectors from the Russian Federation visited Malmstrom Air Force Base on April 9 to verify that 18 demolished Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launch facilities assigned to the 341st Missile Wing have been eliminated in accordance with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

This confirmation will immediately reduce the number of ICBM launchers that the United States is accountable for, and bring the inventory of deployed and non-deployed launchers closer to the Treaty's limit that must be met by February 2018.

The launch facilities inspected were formerly operated by the 564th Missile Squadron and are located within a broad complex between Choteau and Shelby, Mont. The 564th MS was inactivated in 2008. All 50 of the squadron's LFs are deactivated and will be permanently demolished.

The verification was accomplished by a Type Two inspection, a limited visit that gives the Russian inspectors 12 hours to set foot on the eliminated sites and confirm that each LF's launcher closure door has been removed, and that the launcher tube is filled with earth and gravel.

This was the first inspection of this kind at Malmstrom, said Richard Bialczak, 341st MW treaty compliance office chief.

"The inspections we usually have are a Type One, and that's when we go out to the sites and verify warheads and missiles," Bialczak said. For this inspection, the Type Two, the Russians came to "verify launchers we say were eliminated, and check on the processes that we used," he said.

Under treaty protocol, Type Two inspections cannot be used to verify deployed LFs at an operational ICBM base or to confirm the number of re-entry vehicles on top of deployed ICBMs. This type of inspection is normally reserved for storage and test facilities or to verify conversions or eliminations of strategic delivery vehicles. Russia is limited to eight Type Two inspections of U.S. facilities each year.

The 341st MW was notified April 8 that Malmstrom was selected for the inspection, Bialczak said. The inspection teams and their escorts from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency arrived on base the following day at 9 a.m., and began the site inspections at approximately noon.

Because the sites are spread across a wide network of back roads, and time was restricted, the inspectors were divided into two teams; each team would visit LFs until either all 18 sites were accounted for. The groups travelled on buses provided by the 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron and were led by vehicles from the 341st Security Forces Group. Bialczak escorted one group while Greg Aderhold, 341st MW compliance office superintendent, accompanied the other.

"From the time we started, we had to be completed in 12 hours," Bialczak said. "We were able to get all 18."

At each LF, the Russians used a GPS to confirm they were standing on a launcher and then walked around the site to verify the demolition had been completed. Each site only required a few minutes to check off.

"The sites are demolished," Bialczak said. "There's lots of dirt everywhere, dirt covering things that used to be operational missile stuff. And so it was just walk on site, and then off the site we went."

Bialczak said the inspection was completed 'in record time,' and that it would have been possible to inspect more sites if any others were ready for verification.

"DTRA seemed very impressed with our ability to welcome the inspection teams and take them to inspect so many sites in one short visit," said Col. Marné Deranger, 341st MW vice commander. "Overall, we felt the process ran smoothly, as testament to the preparation and experience of Rick and Greg. Our wing is fortunate to have them as part of our team."

As soon as the inspectors departed, Bialczak and Aderhold went back to work readying more eliminated LFs to be removed from treaty accountability. Within days the 341st MW treaty compliance office reported 16 more LFs as fully demolished.

"We can't have anybody go onto those sites," Bialczak said. "They're to remain undisturbed for that 60-day period. After the 60-day period, they come off our books."

Russia may choose to send another inspection team to Malmstrom within the first 30 days of this window to look at these 16 sites, thereby expediting the removal of these launchers. Otherwise, these additional sites won't be cleared from accountability until June.

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