The Cold War has long-since passed, but many of the weapons and infrastructure that defined the near-50 year bi-polar conflict still remain. In North Dakota, ageing Minuteman 3 missiles, 60-foot relics of a the US-Soviet standoff, scar the landscape, emblems of a conflict fought by proxy that never flourishing to the level of all-out war.
Although the weapons have been updated, and remain ready to deliver a nuclear blast anywhere around the globe within minutes, the silos in which they sit have grown old, antiquated and into a state of disrepair, which has led, according to an AP report, to a drop in moral among members of the missile corps in whose care these angels of death reside.
"One of the reasons for the low morale is that the nuclear forces feel unimportant, and they are often treated as such, very openly," Michelle Spencer, a defense consultant in Alabama, told AP, adding that Missileers have become “disillusioned by an obvious but unacknowledged lack of interest in nuclear priorities among the most senior Air Force leaders”.
The Pentagon has promised addition fund to upgrade the facilities, while Air Force chiefs have promised to make sure investment in the missile silos matches the rhetoric that America’s nuclear deterrent is the service’s “Mission Number 1”. However, with conflicts now fought on a regional rather than a global level, it is likely that the men and women charged with protecting this ultimate symbol of hard power will remain the shadows, an outpost of the 20th century, locked in a war no longer being fought.