576th Strategic Missile Squadron
An Important Part of California and the Cold War Era
Welcome to the home web site for the 576th Strategic Missile Squadron. The 576th SMS was based at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California from 1958 thru 1966. There were 7 sites built at Vandenberg to support the development of the Atlas missile system. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, all 576th sites were temporarily launch capable and were ready to launch the Atlas missile should it have become necessary. This unit was the test squadron for the Atlas missile system and performed launches of 6 different Atlas missile versions during the development and ongoing testing of the Atlas program. The 576th SMS had 11 total launcher facilities including 3 Atlas D gantry launchers, 3 Atlas D "coffin launchers", 2 Atlas E "coffin launchers" and 3 Atlas F underground silo style launcher complexes. Site A and Site B were Atlas D series launch complexes with three launch facilities per site. Site C and Site F (OSTF-1) were Atlas E series launch facilities while Site D, Site E and Site G (OSTF-2) were Atlas F series launch facilities. The 576th SMS carried out a total of 53 Atlas D, 7 Atlas E and 7 Atlas F launches between 1959 and 1965. The 576th SMS was inactivated on April 2nd, 1966 bringing to a close a long and distinguished period of service for the men of this unique Atlas missile squadron.
The Atlas rocket was fueled with RP-1 and Liquid Oxygen after which it would then be made ready for launch. All operational Atlas ICBM missiles were equipped with a Mark IV re-entry vehicle developed by General Electric and carried a type W-38 warhead which had a yield of approximately 3.8 megatons of TNT. It had a range of approximately 6,000 miles. Developed by AVCO and General Dynamics, the Atlas weapons system became a national priority during which no expense was spared in the development, testing and implementation of this first generation ICBM system. The Atlas D rocket was also used by NASA during the early days of manned space travel and was the booster used to put John Glenn into Earth orbit. The Atlas would remain in use as a launch vehicle for satellites from Vandenberg as a space booster launching many different type of satellites into orbit until the phaseout of the last ICBM missiles in the mid-1990's. The final ICBM era flight was the successful launch of Atlas 45E from SLC-3W on March 24th, 1995.
This web site is dedicated to everyone who served in the 576th SMS. Without their dedication and sacrifice for the national defense of the United States of America, the freedoms we enjoy today would not be possible.
To everyone who served in and supported the 576th Strategic Missile Squadron ....... Thank You !!