CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. --
On October 28, after nearly nine months of extreme restoration, one of only seven Pershing II surface to surface missiles in existence returned to its new home in Hangar C at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
In 1987, after the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union had to eliminate all short to intermediate range ground launched missiles, including the Pershing II. Only seven of these missiles were allowed to remain as long as they were demilitarized and preserved for public display. The Pershing II in the Hangar C collection happens to be one of only four remaining with the original erector launcher included.
Cape Canaveral AFS received one of the remaining Pershing II missiles because it served as the testing site from 1982 until the signing of the INF treaty. “These missiles served as rapid response units if the Cold War should grow hot at a moment’s notice,” said James Draper, Director of the Air Force Space and Missile Museum.
The Pershing II proved its rapid response capabilities, as it launched six missiles in a matter of three hours during a nuclear readiness exercise, setting a launch day record that has yet to be broken. In 1992, the preserved Pershing II was put on display in the AF Space and Missile Museum Rocket Garden where it stayed until renovations began at the beginning of this year.
The restoration was completed by Guard-Lee Incorporated, who specializes in military restorations and replicas. Their eight person team “looks at the artifact and it tells us what it needs,” said Thomas Wilkes, President of Guard-Lee Inc.
In the case of the Pershing II, Wilkes explained that they took the entire thing apart, completely stripped off all the smaller components, and got down to just the structure.
From there, Guard-Lee secured sub-contractors out of the local area to handle the various elements of the restoration such as fixing the suspension, removing corrosion, and repainting the piece.
After the fully restored Pershing II was returned to the Cape, Draper boasted that with this restoration, the AF Space and Missile Museum has the most complete and most impressive surface to surface missile in the world on display, and that Guard-Lee went above and beyond the scope of this project.
The history of the Pershing II on Cape Canaveral is important to reflect on when acknowledging how far space operations have come, including the establishment of the Space Force.
“The Pershing II represents the evolution of rocketry,” said Draper. The addition of the Pershing II to Hangar C, helps tell the Cold War story, the Cape Canaveral story, and so many others while making it a world class aerospace collection.
To learn more about the Pershing II or other pieces in the Air Force Space and Missile Museum’s collections, visit www.afspacemuseum.org.