Air Combat Command
The Cold War left many marks in North Dakota, from its Air Force stations near Fortuna and Finley to the giant concrete radar pyramid at Nekoma. Most of these structures are now abandoned or converted for other uses. But the Minot Air Force Base is still the headquarters for the 5th Bomb Wing, an element of the Global Strike Command, and the 91st Missile Wing, with nuclear missiles located in three main fields to the north, west, and south of the base.
The base was activated in 1957 to counter northern attacks during the Cold War. Surveillance and air fueling support were early missions. A blast-proof building and the first missile field were installed in the base’s first few years. By 1964, the base was ready for combat with state-of-the-art ICBM technology. Over the years, the base’s mission changed as Strategic Air Command took over from Air Defense Command.
The 1970s saw a lot of upgrades at the base as its arsenal grew and bombing technology improved. The base grew further in the ‘80s with the implementation of the Strategic Projection Force. This concept allowed for conventional warfare at anywhere in the world. The base played a part in Operation Desert Storm by deploying aircraft and personnel to Iraq.
But the ‘90s brought major changes. The Cold War ended and the Air Force prepared for an enormous reorganization. The bomb wing came off alert status after 35 years. On this date in 1992, the Air Combat Command was created. It replaced the Strategic Air Command as host at the base. The world had evolved since the Cold War, and the military sought to restructure. The change brought the bomb wing and missile wing under Air Combat Command’s umbrella. The missile wing was later reassigned to Air Force Space Command.
Today, the Minot Air Force Base supports over 12,000 residents, including active duty personnel, civilians and their family members. It’s been said that the arsenal would make North Dakota the third largest nuclear super power on earth.
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura
Dregni, E. (2006). Midwest marvels: Roadside attractions across Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Wisconsin. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press