What Happened to Our Anti-Ballistic Missile Site After the Cold War

The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex.
(Image: Commons)
The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex. (Image: Commons)

What is this uncapped pyramid that is sitting in an open filed in North Dakota? In the small town of Nekoma, a stone’s throw from the Canadian border, sits a perfect example of military waste.

At the cost of $500 million, The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (SRMSC or MSR) was the only complex that became operational. It was the only intercontinental Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) site at the time to be constructed and operated in the US, being part of the the Safeguard Missile Program. Its job was to watch for potential Soviet ballistic missiles and then launch defensive missiles against such an attack.

This video was created for a kiosk located at Fort Bliss, as part of an exhibit on the Safeguard Missile Program:

The round ‘eyes’ on the pyramid are the radar that scanned each direction on the horizon for ballistic missiles.

 

Northeast face of missile site control building, commonly known as the missile site radar building Image: Commons

Northeast face of the missile site control building, commonly known as the missile site radar building. (Image: Commons)

 

On Oct. 1, 1975, it became fully operational, and was armed with 70 Sprint and 30 Spartan missiles. But then on the very next day, Congress ended the Safeguard program. They deactivated the site saying the program was costing too much, and that it was ineffective against new Soviet weapons. This made the site one of the shortest programs ever, being fully operational for less than 24 hours. No missiles were ever fired during the facility’s extremely brief operation period.

The site was under the control of the U.S. Army until 1979, when the Department of the Interior took over some of the areas where clearance was not needed to use as a Youth Camp (that closed in 1981). Then it was transferred back to the Department of the Army in 1985, and placed under a caretaker status. The secured site remained under U.S. Army control throughout this period. There were 30 buildings and 26 structures at the site, which were all constructed of reinforced concrete to withstand a nuclear blast.The site itself is approxmility 431 acres

 

View of missile site control building turret wall during early construction, illustrating the massive amount of rebar utilized in the project. Image : Commons

View of the missile site control building turret wall during early construction, illustrating the massive amount of rebar utilized in the project. (Image: Commons)

 

In 2012, the site went up for auction and was bought for $530,000, only 10% of the original cost, by the Spring Creek Hutterite Colony. No one knows why the religious group is interested in it, as they strongly oppose warfare. The buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, so there is not much they can do with it.

To spend half a billion dollars on a facility that was only actively used for less than a day seems like sheer waste on a mammoth, but on a positive note, the facility’s existence is credited for helping to end the Cold War.

You Have Never Seen the Sun Like This Before
Are Genetically Modified Mosquitoes a Bad Idea?