Friday, December 3, 2010

Did a UFO Attempt to Launch Minot AFB ICBMs?

Minuteman Launch Control Facility (location and date unknown)

This is another interesting story involving a UFO that apparently was moving over an entire squadron of Minuteman I missiles.  Overall, I like this story, it has certain fascinating elements to it.  The witness appears to be sincere and makes a good attempt to recall events from 40 years ago.  There are elements of command and control issues that would have any old SAC Warrior's heart racing.  The story line has an Orson Wells touch to it that is reminiscent of "War of the Worlds"   In the flavor of the Malmstrom incident,  Robert Hastings tells the story that is based upon his interview with David Schuur.  Lets see if some sense can be made of the event and find an answer to the question, "Did it really happen?'

Robert Hastings posted an article on on July 15, 2008, "Launch in Progress!" Hastings interviewed David Schuur who as a Lt. was on alert at Echo Flight in the mid to late 1960s at Minot AFB, ND. Schuur tells of a UFO encounter in his flight area on one particular alert.  Per Hastings, this interview was one of the "most disturbing interviews" that he had yet conducted for his research.  A UFO had apparently activated the launch sequence for most of David Schuur's Minuteman missiles.

Article posted at

Brief Synopsis of the Event

Lt David Schuur, was a missile launch officer assigned to the 455th Strategic Missile Squadron and the 91st Strategic Missile Wing located at Minot AFB, ND.  Schuur was at Minot for 4 years, December 1963 to November 1967.   Schuur admitted that his memory was "foggy" due to the lapse in years since the time of the incident.  He estimated the event to have occurred between July 1965 and July 1967 (Based upon the commander that he was crewed with)  When pressed by Hastings to try and narrow the time frame, Schuur thought that the incident may have occurred towards the end of his missile tour on station, approximately 1966 or 1967.

On the night in question, Schuur was out at Echo Launch Control Center.  He had the watch while his commander was asleep.  Sometime during the alert, Schuur hears, over PAS (Primary Alerting System) that Alpha Flight security personnel were observing a large bright object over some of their missile sites.  The object appeared to be moving from one missile site to another.  Schuur was not totally sure, but Alpha's missile crew may have been receiving spurious indications on their launch control console.  A few minutes later, Echo started to experience spurious indications on its launch control console.  Echo's security personnel notified Schuur that a bright light or bright object could be seen 3 to 4 miles east of the Launch Control Facility.  The object, though close, never did approach the Launch Control Facility. Schuur thought that the object was scanning his missiles based upon the indications that he was receiving back at his LCC.

Schuur noticed that the spurious indications consisted of the activation of the outer zone and inner zone security alarms at some of his missile sites.  All of a sudden "Launch in Process" lights started showing on the launch control console indicating that Echo's missiles may have process a launch command.  Schuur activates the launch inhibit switch attempting to cancel the possible launch of the affected missiles.  As the object left Echo's flight area, all of Schuur's missiles return to normal operation.

What Happened at Minot's Echo Flight?

Did a true Launch in Progress occur? That would depend on a number of factors and subsequent indications. Schuur told Hastings that he believed that the ICBMs where in a launch sequence, that is, in the process of launching.  So the question has to be asked, did the sorties in question show that the Enable Command had been processed? In order to process a valid launch command the missile must be enabled by activating enable code from the LCC to the LF.  The enable unlock code was only given to the missile crews by SAC HQ via an encrypted message which was sent to the alert crews via PAS, UHF/HF radios, and SACCS. Did the sorties show that the Launch Command had been initiated and processed? (It takes two LCC crews to initiated a valid launch vote...Positive Control ...and this was done via key turn, no push buttons as portrayed in most movies.  The two launch keys were locked  (two separate locks, one belonging to the commander and the other belonging to the deputy commander) in the LCCs red safe which was located above the deputy commander's console.  And finally, did the inhibit launch command, which Schuur states that he initiated, clear the indications or did, as told by Schuur, the "launch in progress" indication cleared up on its own?

Partial view of Launcher Status Missile Indicator Panel (shows 4 out of  ten LFs

A few of months ago, I was corresponding with a former Minot Minuteman I crew commander concerning the then command and control nature of the weapon system. Minot's configuration was almost identical to Malmstrom but with some variation in LCF/LCC panels and equipment configurations.  It was standard procedure to drop the missiles in calibration mode in the event of serious indications affecting the missile itself. Once the missile was in calibration mode, it was not capable of processing any commands issued from the Launch Control Center until after the calibration sequence was completed.  I personally experience this in Minuteman II. 

Schuur states that after the alert he and his commander were told to turn in their tapes and log. Not unusual since this was the requirement for all crews returning from an alert regardless of any unusual alert events. The tapes? Minuteman I did not have the capability of generating printouts, that would come later with Minuteman II & III upgrades.  Recall my Malmstrom post, Minuteman I crews could only monitor their LFs by fault light indicators and VRSA panel interrogations. (This information had from the correspondence with a retired Minuteman I crew commander.)  Minot would keep its Minuteman I missiles until the mid 1970s when it finally upgraded to the MM IIIs.  Could Schuur have, due to the passage of time, confused sorties dropping into "Standby", due to calibration sequencing and mistaken it for Launch in Progress? Both indications are colored white lights on the commanders launch console indicator panel. An inhibit commanded sortie would be indicated by a red colored "inhibit" light on the panel. Unfortunately, Robert Hastings failed to ask these questions, as Schuur's answers could have been more enlightening and revealing.

Hastings, through the words of Schuur, concludes that a UFO may have attempted to gain access to and launch the flights Minuteman ICBMs. If you look at the technique of interviewing, Hastings provides Schuur leading questions. This ultimately leads to his conclusions that Schuur's recalling of the past event are accurate and therefore credible. Hastings now is able through another series of leading questions conclude that UFOs may have been attempting to launch an ICBM.  Whether this is true or not does not matter. The thought has been planted in mind of his readers.  Based upon Hastings' interview, is this a credible story?
Plausible Causation and Time Frame

What makes this story difficult is the lack of verifiable documentation.  The best time-frame of the incident that can be established is what Schuur tells Hastings, which unfortunately is extremely vague. Schuur states that the incident probably happened "in the early morning hours." Further more he is assuming that he was at Echo, but that may not be 100 percent certain. He tells Hastings that the incident may have happened between 1965-1967, then when pressed by Hastings, Schuur gives the 1966-1967 time-frame.  So now there is a wide gap to cover...2 years.

Since Schuur states that the sighting and strange indications happened in the early hours of the morning and depending on the weather conditions its reasonable to ask if an astronomical event such as an early morning star or planet could have played a role in the security personnel sighting the object.  CUFON listed two Minot events, March 5, 1967 and June 1968. Rule out 1968, since Schuur left Minot in November 1967 and now your only left with the March 5,1967 event. Below is from

Richard Hall:On March 5, 1967, Air Defense Command radar tracked an unidentified target descending over the Minuteman missile silos of the 91st Strategic Missile Wing at Minot AFB, ND. Base security teams quickly converged on the area and saw a metallic, disc-shaped craft ringed with bright, flashing lights moving slowly.  The disc stopped and hovered about 500 feet (150 meters) off the ground, as security police held their fire and watched in awe. Suddenly the object began moving again and circled directly over the launch control facility 

Project Blue Book does appear to list an investigation corresponding to a March 5, 1967 incident in and around Minot AFB, but received reports of a UFO sighting near Mohall, ND and Velva, ND from local policemen on March 2, 1967.  The obect in question appeared to be moving east to west.  Mohall is north of Minot, Velva is south east of Minot and Echo-01 is south west of Minot.  Was Schuur on alert during the night of 2 March 1967?  This would probably be difficult to establish.  The 5 March description would come close to Schuur's narrative, but again there appears to be no formal documentation that verifies any event happening on that date.  The LCF in question is not named and Schuur states that his security team saw the object 3-4 miles away and it never approached the LCF.

In Hastings' article, Schuur goes into a brief detail about turning in logs and tapes. The crew log was simply a 24 hour record of events that occurred during the alert period. You would list preambles of Emergency Action Messages, maintenance activity on a particular LF, malfunctions of equipment, security situations at LFs, etc.  Schuur states that he had to turn in tapes from the PAS (Primary Alert System).  PAS was a direct unsecured dedicated phone line between SAC HQ, numbered Air Force command posts, wing command post and each of SAC's ICBM launch control centers. There was no recording device that was recording message traffic via PAS. Upon receipt of an encoded emergency action message and after the crew had decoded the message only the encoded preamble (the first 5 alphanumeric characters) would have been entered on the 24 hour log with a date/time entered also.

The only hard copy of message traffic that Schuur may have received was from the SACCS communications rack. The SACCS generated a hard copy encoded message that was identical to the voice message passed via PAS. I believe that this may be the "tapes" that Schuur is referencing, though it was not a tape but a telex type of print out that the crew would compare the encrypted contents versus that which was received over PAS. PAS and/or SACCS did not contain any contents relating to the ongoing day-to-day status of the flight's 10 missiles.  Procedures have changed throughout the decades, so missile crews may have been required to turn in their SACCS copies of message traffic during the 1960s. There were no such requirements in place during my time in the early 1980s. The relevance of this "tape" is hard to ascertain as this system would not annotate via printouts any sorties receiving commands from the crew.

Another communications system was Survivable Low Frequency Communications System (SLFCS) which received message traffic via ground waves and provided a printed out (extremely slow!!). The contents of a SLFCS message receipt was identical to the message received via PAS/SACCS.  With two communication systems providing printouts, we may well be dealing with nuances which are unfortunately clouding the picture.

Some of the comments posted in response to Hastings' article raised the issue of a possible SAC HQ exercise to gauge wing and crew response. I tend to heavily doubt that scenario. Evaluating security responses to a "situation" on an LF for a security exercise was common, but tampering with a nuclear assets...unthinkable.

Below are email correspondence between David Schuur and myself:

To: xxxxxx 
Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2009 6:36 PM
Subject: Ref. Hastings

Mr.  Shuur,

I had sent you an email last night.  Perhaps I can make this easier and not waste your time.

Robert Hastings wrote an online article in the UFO Chronicles web site, "Launch in Process", and attributed numerous quotes from you regarding the incident in 1964.  Actually, the article has the appearance of an interview.  Again, you are quoted, numerous times.  If your quotes are correct then I will accept that and use Hastings' article as his/your frame of reference.  Hastings has provided me your phone number.  Currently I see no reason to bother you with a phone call.

However, if you feel that Hastings has misquoted you or taken your quotes out of context, then that is a totally different matter and would like to hear from you.  Again as stated in my last email, I am a former MM II Launch Officer that was stationed at Malmstrom AFB, Mt from 1981 to 1985.


Tim Hebert

Mr. Herbert,
I have not read the UFO Chronicles web site.  However, if the web site is similar to his book, then Mr. Hastings has accurately quoted me.  Mr. Hastings gave me an opportunity to review the details about our interview several times and received my concurrence prior to publication.  The facts published are exactly as I recall the incident, all but 40 years after the fact.
I hope this resolves your questions.
David Schuur

In my email to Schuur I had erroneously listed the event as happening in 1964 which underscores the time-frame issues.


1.  Schuur more than likely experienced an anomaly while on alert.  There is high probability that the ICBMs were not put into a launch sequence due to there being no concrete evidence that those sorties had processed a valid enable and launch command.  Finally, Schuur's sorties reverted back to normal modes of operation.  Whether or not this occurred as a result of the inhibit command is still a question.

2.  The questions concerning tapes and logs are not relevant in itself.  What is relevant is Hastings placing the importance of turning in the tapes and crew logs.  All crews returning from alert would have been required to turn in their logs. 

3.  There are two "incidents" involving UFO activity, 2 March 1967 and 5 March 1967.  Though the 5 March date comes close to Schuur's accounting, but the incident somewhat falters due to the alleged UFO circling over the launch control facility itself and there is no documentation that I have yet to come across that verifies anything happening on 5 May 1967.  The 2 March date is documented and is confirmed flying east to west near Velva.  That would put the object on track to fly near Echo 01 which is located near Blue Hill.  But this same object is seen near Mohall which is North of Minot.  So could two objects been reported but listed as one sighting from two sources?  Unfortunately it's difficult to tell for certainty.

4.  Whether Schuur is a credible witness, I can't form that opinion.  I do believe that he is sincere...gut feeling.  Supposedly Schuur may appear for an interview with Frank Warren of The UFO Chronicles.  Warren doesn't state Schuur's name but every indication leads to Schuur.  If this is correct maybe Frank will ask him some of the above questions.  This should or would be an interesting interview to listen to.

5.  Did it really happen?  Based upon the above, you tell me!

Tim Hebert

Note to readers:  There was comment made on another blog site that I may have been divulging classified information.  Nothing in the Malmstrom article nor this one has any classified information.  The issue of the enable command, launch command, and inhibit launch command is NOT classified.  Most, if not all of my information comes from the public domain, FOIA documents, and my experience when I was on alert so many years ago.

Update: 5/23/2013

David Schuur's interview to Robert Hastings brought up the idea that he had tapes to turn into his squadron and/or other base personnel.

I had downplayed this as confusion centering around printed tapes that would have recorded commands issued and received by the crew and that this capability was non-existent for the Minuteman I system.

Frankly, the confusion is mine.  David Schuur in all probability turned in recorded tapes after his alert cycle.  I came across a web page that detailed Minuteman alert crews back in 1967-68.  This apparently was an Air Force promotional spot that may have either aired on TV back in the 67-68 time frame or was a promotional film that was shown to civic gatherings.

In the film, it details a 12 SMS crew at Malmstrom AFB.  The film and it's narrator makes a point to show the voice tape recording system that was installed in the LCC.  Per the narrator, this was supposed to be activated during a higher state of readiness and in preparation to launching the flight's ICBMs.  Basically, it would have been a voice record of the event since there were no other capability to have a written trail to show the actions of the crew.

Obviously, by the time Minuteman II had been fielded, upgrades resulted in a printer system that recorded day to day actions of the crew.  These tapes had to be turned into the squadron hq when the crew returned to base.

Tim Hebert


  1. I was wondering if anyone has ever confirmed any aspects of Mr. Schurr's story. Has his crew partner been asked about this matter? Has anyone from the security team come forward, or was anything documented at a command level? Just a little curious - great write-up by the way. I can't help but feel that maybe Hastings should do a little homework regarding these systems before he attempts to interview those people who actually worked with them - just my opinion, of course.

  2. Hey James,

    As far as confirming Schuur's story, that's the major problem. There appears to be no verifable documentation on the weapon system anomaly. Unfortunately, we're left with making assumptions and speculations. As stated in the interview, Schuur's crew commander is deceased. As of yet no info on the security personnel is available. Hasting's felt that Schuur was credible, maybe he is, but the story falters by lack of verification of the UFO aspect.