Air Force Bids Farewell To "Awfully Tired"
The final Titan II
rocket streaked skyward Oct. 18, leaving in its wake a 40-year
history that included a transformation from intercontinental
ballistic missile to space booster. As the final Titan II rocket
streaked skyward from Vandenberg AFB (CA), it left in its wake a
40-year history that included a transformation from
intercontinental ballistic missile to space booster.
The two-stage, liquid-propelled, silo-based Titan II was
developed for the United States' budding ICBM program. The missiles
served on the front lines of the Cold War.
Among the quartet of subterranean sentinels that held that duty,
including Atlas, Titan, Minuteman and Peacekeeper, the Titan II
cast the longest shadow. It was tipped with the largest warhead
ever fielded by the United States, the 9-megaton Mark 6, with an
explosive equivalence 600 times of that released at Hiroshima. The
Titan II stood watch from 1963 to 1987.
The first Titan II ICBM test-launched from here was Feb. 16,
1963. The missile exploded less than a minute after launch.
Maybe it was the name.
"In the early days, they used to give missiles nicknames," said
Jeffrey Geiger, 30th Space Wing historian. "This one was called
'Awfully Tired.' Maybe it was so tired it just blew up," he
Despite this first disaster, the Titan II program forged ahead.
The next missile test launch was April 27, 1963. In the next 24
years, 56 more Titan II ICBMs launched from here.
Then came the more efficient Minuteman ICBMs, and the Titan II
missile became obsolete, Geiger said. The Titan II weapon system
was deactivated May 5, 1987. "Once the missile lost its operational
viability, it became a space booster," Geiger said.
In 1988, following decommissioning of the Titan II as a weapon
system, 14 of the 54 remaining vehicles were reacquired by Lockheed
Martin Corp. The missiles were then retrofitted for spacelift duty.
Since 1989, 12 of those have flown from Vandenberg's shore,
successfully placing a wide array of payloads into polar, low-Earth
One of the more unique aspects of the Titan's history is its
involvement with the manned-space program.
In the 10 flights of
the Gemini Program from 1965 to 1966, modified Titan IIs carried
two-person spacecrafts aloft. These flights focused on the
logistics of “twinning” spacecraft in orbit, rendezvous
and docking procedures to which the Saturn-based Apollo missions
were heir, and which brought the first moon landing in 1969.
Those early Gemini flights were not the Titan II's only
contribution to lunar exploration. "The Titan II's most interesting
payload was the Clementine lunar-space probe," Gieger said. The
1994 Clementine mission provided evidence of water on the moon.
This was also the first lunar launch from Vandenberg.
Of all the Titan IIs built by the Martin Company between 1962 to
1967, 95 have passed fully into history. Two were destroyed in
accidents, while 93 have performed their intended function.
Of those, the second-to-last forged was the last to fly,
providing the 430,000 pounds of thrust that took the 16th in a
series of weather satellites for its six-minute ride 100 nautical
miles into space.
ANN appreciates the efforts of Maj. Dan Wetmore, 30th Space
Wing Public Affairs