Air Force Bases

Atlas Missile at Fairchild AFB Washington

Established during World War II as a supply and maintenance depot, Fairchild became a SAC bomber base in the post-war era.

On July 14, 1958, the Corps of Engineers Northern Pacific Division directed its Seattle District to begin survey and mapping operations for the first Atlas E site to be located in the vicinity of Spokane. The design contractor, Bechtel Corporation, provided the Seattle District with the initial plans, design analysis, and outline specifications in December. Originally, the Air Force wanted three sites with three missiles at each (3 x 3); however, in early 1959, the Air Force opted to disperse the missiles to individual sites as a defensive safety measure. Launchers were located at Deer Park, Newman Lake, Sprague, Davenport, Wilbur, Egypt, Reardon, Lamona, and Rockford, Idaho.

The work to build the nine sites was split between three major contractors and dozens of smaller firms. Work started at Site A on May 12,1959, and completion at Site I occurred on February 10, 1961. Auxiliary support facilities for each site were built concurrent with the launchers. At Fairchild, support facilities, including a liquid oxygen plant, were completed by January 1961.

Several problems hindered construction. Three major contractors working together on a single site caused coordination problems. The 116-day national steel strike that commenced on July 15, 1959, caused delays up to 5 months for delivery of key components such as blast doors. Some 459 modifications to the ongoing construction added delays and added another $6.6 million to the project costs.

Working relations between the contractors and the unions were cordial. Nine work stoppages were quickly resolved and the impact on construction was minor. One worker was killed during construction.

Activation of the 567th Strategic Missile Squadron on April 1, 1960, marked the first time SAC activated an E series Atlas unit. On December 3, 1960, the first Atlas E missile arrived at the 567th SMS. Construction continued and SAC accepted the first Series E Atlas complex on July 29, 1961. Operational readiness training, which previously had been conducted only at Vandenberg AFB, California, began at Fairchild during the following month. On September 28, 1961, Headquarters SAC declared the squadron operational and during the following month, the 567th placed the first Atlas E missile on alert status. The bulk of the Fairchild force was on alert status in November.

The 567th SMS underwent the first formal Operational Readiness Inspection for a SAC Atlas E missile squadron in April 1963, and became the first SAC missile squadron to pass.

As a result of Defense Secretary McNamara's May 1964 directive accelerating the phaseout of Atlas and Titan I ICBMs, the first Fairchild Series E Atlas missiles came off line in January 1965. On March 31, the last missile came off alert status, which marked the completion of Atlas E phaseout. The squadron was deactivated within 3 months.

The departure of Atlas ICBMs did not completely close out Fairchild's involvement with strategic missiles. B-52H bombers assigned to the base underwent modification to carry Air-Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs). Missile assembly and storage facilities were constructed for this purpose.

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