Project Emily

Training for Thor

For the first few years, the majority of the training took place in the United States at two locations - Tucson, Arizona and Vandenberg Air Force Base on the Pacific coast.

The locations of Vandenberg Air Force Base (on the coast) and Tucson, Arizona

The first month was spent at a Douglas Aircraft Company facility at Davis-Monthan, a USAF Base near Tucson where they trained alongside USAF personnel.
There were some twenty individual courses supporting Thor operations.
The training programme was demanding - reveille at 04:50, breakfast at 05:20, technical lessons and study from 06:40 to 15:00hrs.
Lights out was no later than 20:30hrs.

At Davis-Monthan the future RAF crews receive their Certificate of Training - Thor Weapon Systems

This training was followed by a further two months at USAF Base Vandenberg in California where full launch teams were formed.
The course provided 'Integrated Weapon Systems Training' (IWST) and would culminate in a live launch by one the student crews.
However, the US Government would only sanction four training launches a year using missiles from US stocks - therefore only a lucky few would actually launch a missile.
The first IWST launch by a totally RAF crew took place on the 16th April 1959 and was codenamed Lion's Roar.

Thor about to be launched from AFB Vandenberg - codenamed Lion's Roar

However, once the Thor bases in the UK became operational it was agreed that every three months, a missile chosen at random would be returned from the UK and used for a 'Combat Training Launch'.
This would not only give crews additional missiles to fire but would test the serviceability of Thors that had been exposed to the UK weather for a period of time.

Built in 1958, SLC-10 is one of two launch pads built by the Douglas Aircraft Company to support Combat Training Launches of the Thor IRBM

During the short Thor era, over 1200 RAF servicemen were trained in the United States.

In January 1961, RAF Bomber Command established a Strategic Missile School at RAF Feltwell and in May 1961 responsibility for Thor missile training passed from the USAF to the RAF.
The school conducted a range of courses to cover Thor operations and after the final course for Launch Control Officers in November 1962, the school was closed.

For a comprehensive list of RAF Thor launches click this link - opens in a new window.
The list is courtesy of Wikipedia.