Wm. (Bill) R Harmon
Retired BTL MTS
Comments (subject to the writer’s memory) on the role of AT&T in the history of Nike Hercules air defense system.
Genealogy Of Nike Hercules
During World War II (WWII), AT&T’s development group "Bell Telephone Laboratories" (BTL) developed many radars and associated equipment for the war effort. One of many of the major achievements was to adapt and improve the British developed magnetron into a potent high power source of RF energy and making it producible in vast quantities. Raytheon also worked on and produced the magnetron during WWII.
The Army had the M-9 optical director for 90 mm anti-aircraft guns. BTL was asked to make a radar controlled gun director—the T-33 system was developed and manufactured for the Army. Early versions of LOPAR (low power acquisition radar) and TTR (Target Tracking Radar) were developed for T-33.
The TTR had a unique metal lense to focus RF energy and a monopulse tracking capability. Prior tracking radars used a "conical-scan" tracking capability.
BTL development groups were located in Whippany, NJ. T-33 was manufactured at Western Electric’s (WECO) Burlington, NC plant. (WECO in 1946 had moved their radio division from NJ to Burlington and Winston-Salem both in North Carolina.).
With the event of faster, higher flying all-weather airplanes, the Army asked BTL to design and develop a radar-controlled anti-aircraft missile system. The system built and deployed was the Nike Ajax system. The Douglas Aircraft Co. designed and built the Ajax missile, launch, and missile deployment equipment with WECO as the prime contractor. The design added a new radar very similar to TTR called missile tracking radar (MTR). An analog computer was developed to take the LOPAR and TTR radar data, determine target range, direction, altitude, and speed, and potential future position so that the MTR could guide the Ajax missile to intercept the target at that future position.
A more complete history is in Army data and a book published about the system. BTL Nike Ajax design groups were in NJ. All the ground equipment associated with the radars and computer were manufactured in WECO’s Burlington, NC shops.
Aircraft continued to fly higher, go faster, fly in large formations, and carry very potent bombs led the Army to ask BTL to counter the threat. Ajax had limitations so a new system was designed called Nike Hercules. Douglas designed and built a new missile with different types of warhead capability to counter act formations of high flying bombers. The TTR and MTR were redesigned with then new polarization-twisting Cassegrain antenna designed by Wheeler Labs for BTL. Monopulse tracking was still used. This design provided the enhancement needed. While still used, the LOPAR limited the search range especially in a hostile environment. ECM was also shown to deny range data from the TTR in a hostile environment. Improvements to Nike Hercules added HIPAR (high power acquisition radar) and a new target ranging radar (TRR) slaved in angular coordinates to the TTR. This system was the Improved Nike Hercules (INH).
BTL, at the Army’s direction, moved to meet the ICBM threat. The Nike Zeus with all its many features used all available NJ BTL manpower so the design for INH was transferred to a BTL group resident at WECO’s Burlington, NC plant.
My part in INH
Background--During WWII, after 2 years engineering school, I worked on the then classified word "radar" for Raytheon. This was small ship radars and also submarine radars of the "SO" type. Also worked on radar data repeaters to the bridge of large ships. After finishing college, employed by WECO on radio telephone equipment; later design and development on Air Force radars such as APS-23, APS-64 and an airborne analog computer APA-44. followed by K-5 radar, computer, and optical system to provide navigation and bombing capability for the then new
B-66. I left BTL in 1955 and was employed by Melpar in the Washington, DC area. I helped design and flight test electronic countermeasure (ECM) for both the Air Force and Navy. With this back ground I returned to BTL in 1961 joining the BTL INH group in Burlington, NC.
Parts of INH in which I was involved—
- All ECM/ECCM tests at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) after 1961.
- ABAR/HIPAR radar debates—my system analysis showed, to the Army Missile Command, in high level conferences that, while ABAR was an excellent peace-time radar, only HIPAR had the ECCM capability for INH to meet the ECM threat. BTL recommended, to the Army, to deploy only HIPAR even though ABAR was much less expensive.
- Directed the development of the high power ferrite switches which gave the TRR new ECCM capabilities.
- Designed and incorporated the lin-log receivers for TTR and TRR radars.
- Directed the development of the image-rejection mixers for the TTR.
- Directed the development of an enhanced low altitude tracking capability with TTR. Wheeler labs, who had developed the MTR and TTR antennas, did the antenna work. This feature was flight tested at WSMR but never incorporated into INH.
- Directed a study program by Raytheon to replace LOPAR with a new phased array radar to supplement HIPAR and have enhanced low altitude detection capabilities to go with the above TTR improvements. This study was never implemented.
- Directed the General Electric Co. in numerous studies to improve HIPAR capabilities. Some were incorporated into HIPAR.
- Participated in numerous air defense studies for Army missile command--such as the SAM-D air defense proposal.
- Participated in the modifications to INH to provide a defense against the short range ballistic missile. The flight tests were conducted against live missile targets with dummy warheads at WSMR. Never fielded. (opinion—it might have been more effective against "scud" missiles than Patriot)
I spent the next period off INH developing telephone equipment for the Bell System. During this period I was transferred to Whippany, NJ BTL location.
When the NATO enhancements to INH were funded in the late 1970’s I returned as a senior engineer to AT&T technology’s group doing design as a radar person with past experience on INH. This work was done in Burlington, NC and the design fielded to the Nike sites in Europe. some sites are still operational.
The analog computer was replaced with a special purpose digital computer and radar circuits had most vacuum tubes replaced with solid state design. I was involved in most of the radar changes.
At the end of NATO INH I worked on a special communication project for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). I was incharge of all the voice and data transmission and the signal processing needed. About 1985 I returned to BTL as a member technical staff. I retired from BTL in 1989.
(Thanks to Len Dvoracek, WECO/BTL for his comments and corrections)
return to NikePeople, Bell Labs