The U.S. Air Force Minuteman II missile was the first to fly with a fully integrated microelectronics system, proving in action the high-reliability semiconductor integrated circuit. Each missile contained over 2,000 TI circuits of the types shown.

Special ICs produced for Minuteman missile

Autonetics, a division of North American Aviation in California, held a major subcontract from Boeing on the Minuteman. TI had never been able to secure any business from the company. It took TI two years of determined efforts, including visits by IC inventor Jack Kilby and TI manager Charles Phipps, and Air Force support to convince Autonetics that integrated circuits held the key to success for the Minuteman before TI finally won its first contract at Autonetics for slightly more than $9 million.

The Minuteman II, with its extended range, was valued as an essential part of America’s strategic arsenal. Its new guidance computer, armed with more than 2,000 TI integrated circuits, was 50 percent lighter than its forerunners had been. It earmarked the integrated circuit as one of TI’s major breakthroughs. Just as it had been with the introduction of the transistor, the electronics business was on the verge of undergoing another rapid growth period.

At TI, the work had only begun. TI President Pat Haggerty, no longer concerned with marketing integrated circuits, was suddenly faced with the fact that TI could not make enough integrated circuits to fulfill the Autonetics orders. TI had seriously miscalculated the problem of designing so many custom circuits in such a short time. Complications arose in trying to handle some 19 different integrated circuit types, both analog and digital, for the Minuteman computer — an unprecedented task in integrated circuit development. Phipps recalls that from the spring 1963 until almost year-end, TI struggled with the manufacturing process.

Haggerty himself took charge of the production crisis, assuring Autonetics, “The next month or two will be critical, but I am more confident than ever that we will support your program adequately.” He realized that TI was paying the price of pioneering a new technology.

In September 1964, the Minuteman II was launched in a successful test flight from Cape Kennedy. TI received substantial follow-on contracts, and a 1965 Air Force decision to retrofit 800 earlier Minuteman missiles with integrated circuitry provided another $11 million in revenues for the company. The Minuteman III system, with improved warhead deployment and increased range, entered the silos in early 1970; the missiles contained large quantities of TI’s integrated circuits.

Haggerty later could proudly point out the Minuteman II guidance computer was half the weight, used less than half as many devices, and consumed about half as much power as its predecessor. The new guidance computer was a little more than 36 pounds, but its heart and soul, the integrated circuit, weighed only two and a half grams. That was only the beginning. Within a short time, TI was selling devices similar to those designed for the Minuteman missile in the commercial marketplace, helping to spawn a new industry. As Phipps commented, “The Minuteman program allowed us to get integrated circuit complexity under our belt.” Gene McFarland, a key marketing manager in the early integrated circuit years, added, “It also taught us about the learning curve and how to get our costs down.”

Man comparing Minuteman parts
News release
Employee newspaper: Minuteman II hits target with TI circuits aboard
Employee newspaper: TI wins $11 million contract for Minuteman II electronics
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