Titan I

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The HGM-25A Titan I was a liquid-fueled, silo-based, intercontinental ballistic missile built by the United States.

Titan I at a Glance

Originated From
United States
Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM)
Possessed By
United States
29.87 m
3.05 m
Launch Weight
99,790 kg
Single warhead
3.75 mT Nuclear
Three-stage, liquid propellant
10,000 km
In Service
Titan I test launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Photo: U.S. Air Force

Titan I Development

The HGM-25A Titan I missile program began in 1954 around the same time as the Thor, Atlas, and Minuteman I programs. The Titan I was designed to function as a secondary ICBM program if the Atlas program failed to produce a viable missile. Additionally, the Titan I was designed to deliver a heavier payload and be able to strike targets outside the Atlas’ range.1 Following the Sputnik satellite launch and concerns of a gap in U.S. and Soviet missile technology growing, Titan was given full funding and was ordered to be deployed alongside the Atlas.2 The Titan’s first test flight took place in February of 1959 and the entire testing series was completed by December of 1960.3

Unlike the Atlas, Titan had two distinct separating stages, as opposed to booster rockets strapped to the sides of the main stage. This made Titan I the first true multi-stage missile developed by the United States. The Titan I’s two-stage design was implemented to account for the extra weight from the solid airframe and to reduce the missile’s weight during later stages of flight.4 The primary contractor of the Titan ICBM program was Martin Marietta. While testing the complicated stage separation and silo launch systems, the Titan underwent a series of failures which resulted in the missiles losing control and being destroyed by range control or exploding on the launch pad.5

The missile entered service in 1961. A total of 163 missiles were produced.6


The Titan 1 had a range of 10,000 km with an accuracy of 1,400 m CEP. This accuracy was obtained from an inertial guidance system that used radio command updates from ground making flight corrections. It deployed a single Mk 4 Reentry Vehicle (RV) which carried a W-38 3.75 MT nuclear warhead. The missile had a first-stage diameter of 3.05 m, a second-stage diameter of 2.44 m, a length of 29.87 m and a launch weight of 99,790 kg. The missiles had a two-stage liquid propellant design, and reached a speed of 25 times the speed of sound by the time the engines cut off.7

Service History

The Titan I missile was a strategic weapon created to provide the United States a counter-strike capability against the Soviet Union. Unlike its contemporaries, Thor and Atlas, the Titan I was designed from the beginning as one of the first missiles that could be launched from a hardened underground silo which offered the missile protection against a Soviet attack.8 However, unlike modern missiles which can launch from inside the silo, Titan I’s were installed on elevators which raised the missile to ground level before firing. In order to provide a quick response to Soviet aggression, the Titan missiles were capable of being fueled, raised, and launched within 15 minutes of receiving a launch command. 9

The Titan I sites were under the command of six different strategic missile squadrons (568th, 569th, 724th, 725th, 850th, and 851st) and constructed in Air Force bases throughout California, Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota, and Washington.10 Each launch complex included three missile silos, an antenna silo, a power house, fuel and equipment terminals, and a command bunker which were all interlinked via tunnels and located at least 33 km away from other launch complexes to increase survivability in event of an attack.[Stumpf, 29.] Due to the volatility of liquid oxygen fuel, the silo locations were also widely separated from the other complex structures for safety purposes.11

Due to the low numbers of ICBMs and generally poor accuracy of ICBMs in the early 1960s, missiles like the Titan were dedicated to striking counter-value targets such as industrial centers or major cities while Air Force strategic bombers were responsible for hitting smaller or hardened targets. The Titan I was retired in 1965 in favor of the Titan II.12


    1. “Titan I”, Warren ICBM and Heritage Museum, http://www.warrenmuseum.com/missiles/titan-1/.
    2. Encyclopedia Astronautica, “Titan 1,” http://www.astronautix.com/t/titani.html.
    3. David Baker, “Titan I/II” in The Rocket: The History and Development of Rocket & Missile Technology, (New York: Crown Publishers, 1978.), 257.
    4. Encyclopedia Astronautica.
    5. Ibid.
    6. David Stumpf, Titan II, (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000.), 19.
    7. Duncan Lennox, “Titan I” in Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems (Offensive Weapons), (London: IHS Global, 2011.)
    8. Baker, 257.
    9. Warren ICBM and Heritage Museum.
    10. “Titan I Missile Silo Coordinates,” The Military Standard, http://www.themilitarystandard.com/missile/titan1/silo/index.php.
    11. United States Air Force, “T.O. 21M-HGM25A-1-1,” (Washington D.C.: Secretary of the Air Force, August 1, 1963), 1-6.
    12. Stumpf, 29.
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Missile Defense Project, "Titan I," Missile Threat, Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 22, 2017, last modified April 23, 2024, https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/titan-i/.