What was TEKOI? [CORRECTED]

This is the Tekoi Test Range. Or, at least it once was. The site is long abandoned now, but it once served a vital purpose. A military purpose. And the work done at Tekoi is still out in the world today.

Constructed during the Cold War, at the entrance to the facility is a warning sign in Russian, but this is not the former Soviet Union. This is the great state of Utah, where, in Skull Valley, Tekoi resides. Much of what happened on site was classified.

And equipment and documents were removed. But what remains is enough to piece together the story of Tekoi. The paperwork left behind bears the logo of Hercules Incorporated. Hercules got its start in the late 1800s with a patent improving on dynamite the creator named ‘Hercules Powder‘, and began manufacturing the new explosive just outside of San Francisco in a company town that would outlive the company.

Hercules, California. Chemical manufacturing at the turn of the century was dangerous. And about 60 people would die in several explosions over the years. Hercules made many chemical products but their smokeless gunpowder rapidly grew them to become a vital United States military supplier during the world wars.

As the poster said, “Hercules men and women in the war: Keep ’em Shooting.” The Cold War came next and brought with it a new weapon. The Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, tipped with a nuclear warhead. Now, one country could destroy another remotely, and the only defense was a credible threat of retaliation. This drew the United States and the Soviet Union into an arms race, building more and better nuclear weapons each year. Technological development led to solid fuel rocket motors.

Unlike earlier liquid-based missiles, which had to be launched out in the open and were slow to fuel, the new motors allowed nuclear missiles to be hidden. America’s cornfields would grow to contain one thousand underground silos. Each ready with a fast-launching Minuteman missile inside.

But ground silos are in fixed locations, and, once discovered, cannot be moved. Nuclear bombers are mobile, but planes can be found by radar. However, submarines can hide in the sea, difficult to find. So the United States developed the Ohio class submarine, the largest yet built, for carrying a new solid fuel Trident nuclear missile.

The United States ordered twenty-four Ohios to be built, each with a maximum complement of twenty-four Tridents. Each Trident carried up to fourteen warheads. A combined maximum delivery potential of more than eight thousand nuclear bombs.

Thus, were the United States and her Minutemen to be destroyed in a first strike, and all her aircraft shot down, there would still be more than enough Tridents launching from the hidden deep to safely assure mutual destruction. Which brings us back to Hercules and Tekoi. For as the bullet in a round needs powder to hit a target, so too does the nuclear warhead in a Trident missile need its solid fuel motor. Hercules manufactured the motors at a plant called Bacchus West in Magna, Utah, and brought them to Tekoi for testing. The large concrete cubes still here are thrust blocks.

Their purpose to be an immovable object for a missile motor to push against during test firing. Each motor needed to be individually calibrated. Hitting a target a quarter of the world away while traveling at Mach 20 is a precise affair.

So once in place against the thrust block, technicians would connect sensors to the motor to measure heat and pressure, and those sensors connected via underground cables to instrument bunkers, where engineers would record the results with state-of-the-art 1970s computer assistance. Setup for each test could take a week or more, so the motor and engineers and equipment had to be protected from the elements. But a missile can’t be fired inside a building without melting the structure around it and invalidating the test. To solve this, the buildings at Tekoi were constructed on rails so they could be pulled back before firing. And also give the nearby camera houses a clear view of the test. [unknown speaker on radio] This will be the firing of D5 second stage Pet Five B250. [radio clicking] Minus ten… nine… eight… seven… six… five… four… three… two… one… zero!

We have ignition. [Grey] Hercules did improve on safety since its start in California a hundred years earlier. The large poles around each test site are lightning rods to divert strikes from the area’s numerous storms and to prevent explosions. Nonetheless, one man was killed at Tekoi. In 1984, crushed beneath a motor that came loose during securement to the test block. An accident for which the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Hercules $640.

The end of the 1980s was the beginning of the end for Hercules. The United States had been slowing production of nuclear warheads, and needed fewer missiles to carry them. Tekoi was used less as a testing site, and more as a storage location as military contracts dried up, leading to hundreds of layoffs in the early 1990s. Though the United States no longer needed the facility for strategic production. It was still strategically useful in a different way.

Politics. In 1991, the United States and the Soviet Union signed START, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, where both agreed to reduce the size of their nuclear stockpiles. Because, of course, neither country was just going to take the word of the other, numerous trust-but-verify policies were put into place. For example, both sides disabling their long range bombers out in the open for the others’ satellites to see.

And, each country picked weapon production sites the other could inspect. The United States provided a list of dozens of sites for the Soviets, one of which was the Tekoi Test Range. And is why the sign in Russian is at the entrance.

Temporary housing for the inspection team was built in the Soviet Union to ensure the Americans had not installed any bugs in the walls or tampered with the equipment, and transported to Utah. Forming a small Soviet outpost in Magna, the flags of which had to be changed after the Soviet Union dissolved and inspection duties fell to the Russian Federation. Tekoi limped on during the inspection period, but, in 1995, with too many canceled contracts, the now-failing Hercules Incorporated put itself up for sale, acquired by Alliant Techsystems, an American aerospace, defense and… sporting goods company.

This is the Tekoi Test Range. Or, at least it once was. The site is long abandoned now, but it once served a vital purpose. A military purpose. And the work done at Tekoi is still out in the world today.

Constructed during the Cold War, at the entrance to the facility is a warning sign in Russian, but this is not the former Soviet Union. This is the great state of Utah, where, in Skull Valley, Tekoi resides. Much of what happened on site was classified.

And equipment and documents were removed. But what remains is enough to piece together the story of Tekoi. The paperwork left behind bears the logo of Hercules Incorporated. Hercules got its start in the late 1800s with a patent improving on dynamite the creator named ‘Hercules Powder‘, and began manufacturing the new explosive just outside of San Francisco in a company town that would outlive the company.

Hercules, California. Chemical manufacturing at the turn of the century was dangerous. And about 60 people would die in several explosions over the years. Hercules made many chemical products but their smokeless gunpowder rapidly grew them to become a vital United States military supplier during the world wars.

As the poster said, “Hercules men and women in the war: Keep ’em Shooting.” The Cold War came next and brought with it a new weapon. The Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, tipped with a nuclear warhead. Now, one country could destroy another remotely, and the only defense was a credible threat of retaliation. This drew the United States and the Soviet Union into an arms race, building more and better nuclear weapons each year. Technological development led to solid fuel rocket motors.

Unlike earlier liquid-based missiles, which had to be launched out in the open and were slow to fuel, the new motors allowed nuclear missiles to be hidden. America’s cornfields would grow to contain one thousand underground silos. Each ready with a fast-launching Minuteman missile inside.

But ground silos are in fixed locations, and, once discovered, cannot be moved. Nuclear bombers are mobile, but planes can be found by radar. However, submarines can hide in the sea, difficult to find. So the United States developed the Ohio class submarine, the largest yet built, for carrying a new solid fuel Trident nuclear missile.

The United States ordered twenty-four Ohios to be built, each with a maximum complement of twenty-four Tridents. Each Trident carried up to fourteen warheads. A combined maximum delivery potential of more than eight thousand nuclear bombs.

Thus, were the United States and her Minutemen to be destroyed in a first strike, and all her aircraft shot down, there would still be more than enough Tridents launching from the hidden deep to safely assure mutual destruction. Which brings us back to Hercules and Tekoi. For as the bullet in a round needs powder to hit a target, so too does the nuclear warhead in a Trident missile need its solid fuel motor. Hercules manufactured the motors at a plant called Bacchus West in Magna, Utah, and brought them to Tekoi for testing. The large concrete cubes still here are thrust blocks.

Their purpose to be an immovable object for a missile motor to push against during test firing. Each motor needed to be individually calibrated. Hitting a target a quarter of the world away while traveling at Mach 20 is a precise affair.

So once in place against the thrust block, technicians would connect sensors to the motor to measure heat and pressure, and those sensors connected via underground cables to instrument bunkers, where engineers would record the results with state-of-the-art 1970s computer assistance. Setup for each test could take a week or more, so the motor and engineers and equipment had to be protected from the elements. But a missile can’t be fired inside a building without melting the structure around it and invalidating the test. To solve this, the buildings at Tekoi were constructed on rails so they could be pulled back before firing. And also give the nearby camera houses a clear view of the test. [unknown speaker on radio] This will be the firing of D5 second stage Pet Five B250. [radio clicking] Minus ten… nine… eight… seven… six… five… four… three… two… one… zero!

We have ignition. [Grey] Hercules did improve on safety since its start in California a hundred years earlier. The large poles around each test site are lightning rods to divert strikes from the area’s numerous storms and to prevent explosions. Nonetheless, one man was killed at Tekoi. In 1984, crushed beneath a motor that came loose during securement to the test block. An accident for which the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Hercules $640.

The end of the 1980s was the beginning of the end for Hercules. The United States had been slowing production of nuclear warheads, and needed fewer missiles to carry them. Tekoi was used less as a testing site, and more as a storage location as military contracts dried up, leading to hundreds of layoffs in the early 1990s. Though the United States no longer needed the facility for strategic production. It was still strategically useful in a different way.

Politics. In 1991, the United States and the Soviet Union signed START, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, where both agreed to reduce the size of their nuclear stockpiles. Because, of course, neither country was just going to take the word of the other, numerous trust-but-verify policies were put into place. For example, both sides disabling their long range bombers out in the open for the others’ satellites to see.

And, each country picked weapon production sites the other could inspect. The United States provided a list of dozens of sites for the Soviets, one of which was the Tekoi Test Range. And is why the sign in Russian is at the entrance.

Temporary housing for the inspection team was built in the Soviet Union to ensure the Americans had not installed any bugs in the walls or tampered with the equipment, and transported to Utah. Forming a small Soviet outpost in Magna, the flags of which had to be changed after the Soviet Union dissolved and inspection duties fell to the Russian Federation. Tekoi limped on during the inspection period, but, in 1995, with too many canceled contracts, the now-failing Hercules Incorporated put itself up for sale, acquired by Alliant Techsystems, an American aerospace, defense and… sporting goods company.

In 1999, the lease on this land expired. Alliant Techsystems did not renew and control of the Tekoi Test Range reverted to the Skull Valley Indian Reservation, within the borders of which Tekoi sits. Though Tekoi operates no more, its work lives on. 220 Trident nuclear missiles are still actively deployed.

Waiting. With their solid fuel motors, calibrated here at Tekoi, to assure mutual destruction.

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