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Ed’s comments: This is *MOST* an Army report of the Nike development and deployment.

Conversion notes:




of the


1945 - 1959

Mary T. Cagle


Approved for
Release By: ______________
Brig General, USA

Published By: __________
ARGMA Historian
30 June 1959

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This historical monograph contains a detailed account of the development, production, and deployment of the NIKE ATAX Guided Missile System, from the inception of the project early in 1945 through June 1959 It was prepared for the Office, Chief of Ordnance, in compliance with letter to the Commanding General, Army Rocket & Guided Missile Agency, subject "Historical Monograph on Guided Missiles, " dated 8 May 1958.

Classified paragraphs are marked with "(C)" or "(S)" as appropriate; all unmarked paragraphs are considered unclassified.

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. . Page


. Origin of the NIKE Project 1
. Feasibility Study - System Philosophy 4


. Initiation of Development Project 7
.Organization of the R&D Program 8
.Program Control and Policy Guidance 10
. Plan of Development 13
. Basic Design Concept and Specifications 17
. Preliminary design studies 19
. System Component Development and First Test Firings25
. Propulsion and Aerodynamic Test Program 41
. Single-Plane Steering Test Program 48
. Composite Steering Test Program, 64
. Performance Test Period, 72
. Introduction, 81
. The Missile 82
. Launching Equipment 90
. Ground Guidance Installation (Radar and Computer)90
. Planning for System Tests 101
. Test Equipment and Instrumentation 102
. Results of System Test Firings 108
. Synopsis 119
. Bibliography 121
. Introduction 122
. The Telescoped R&D Production Program 125
. Design and Fabrication of the Tactical Prototype 129
. Contractor Evaluation Tests 159
. System Improvement and Final Design 163
. The NIKE AJAX Test Program 172
. NIKE AJAX Production and Cost Data 179
. Introduction 181
. The Real Estate Problem 181
. The NIKE AJAX Explosion 194
. The Shift from AJAX to HERCULES 200
. Who Said 'Obsolescent' 202

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(not included)


(not included)


Origin of the NIKE project

Early in 1944-- over a year before the war in Europe ended--intelligence reports reaching this country indicated that the Germans were in process of developing extremely large rocket projectiles with a range of more than 100 miles, which would soon be in combat use. These reports also revealed that large, guided, rocket-type missiles had already been used by the Germans with some success. Recognizing the high potential military value of such a projectile, American officials decided that a development program for a long-range rocket missile should be initiated here.

Accordingly, in February 1944, the Army Ground Forces sent the Army Service Forces an inquiry concerning the development of a direction- controlled, major caliber, antiaircraft rocket torpedo. At that time, the development of a specific missile was considered undesirable because of the basic research problems yet unsolved. Therefore, the Ordnance Department decided that, for the time being, the antiaircraft study should be incorporated into the general guided missile studies already underway .

Based on the results of studies conducted during the next three months, the Ordnance Technical Committee concluded that a long-term program was required for the development of guided missiles, starting with a series of experimental projects from which essential theoretical data and practical experience could be obtained. So, in May 1944, the Committee recommended that the Ordnance Department enter into development contracts and procure pilot models of a long-range rocket missile, together with suitable launching equipment. The action recommended was approved the following month and a basic research project was initiated.1

Meanwhile, toward the end of World War II, it was becoming obvious that new types of high-speed, high-altitude bomber aircraft, capable of precision bombing while maneuvering, could not be effectively engaged by conventional antiaircraft artillery. Because of the short projectile range and maneuvering of the target during flight of the projectile, conventional artillery guns were somewhat ineffective even against slow-speed aircraft. Since there was little hope that these and other obstacles could be overcome by further development, the need for a new weapon or a new approach was indicated. The most profitable approach to the problem appeared to be the development of a new weapon--a jet propelled surface- to-air guided missile.2

Although some thought had been given to the antiaircraft problem as a part of the general guided missile program, most of the research effort had been devoted to long-range surface-to-surface weapons, such as the CORPORAL. Late in 1944, however, the advent of German Jet propelled pursuit planes in combat created an immediate need for a tactical antiaircraft weapon that could be used effectively against them.3 This was followed by a chain of positive actions that led to the development of a specific antiaircraft weapon system.

Approval for the development of antiaircraft guided missiles was given by the Army Service Forces in an official communication to the Chief of Ordnance dated 26 January 1945.4 Later in the same month, the Office, Chief of Ordnance sent a letter to the bell Telephone Laboratories (BTL) authorizing contract negotiations for a formal study to determine the technical characteristics of an antiaircraft guided missile.5 At the same time, the Army Air Corps was trying to engage these same facilities to study a similar problem for winged missiles. Since BTL was not prepared to undertake both studies, it was decided that the contract would be awarded on a comprehensive study basis without limitation as to whether the missile would be winged or wingless. Accordingly, the original contract was Jointly sponsored by the Army Air Corps and Ordnance Department, and the study results were shared equally.6

Thus, Project NIKE came into being on 8 February 1945, when a contract was issued to the Western Electric Company (WECo) for BTL to perform a complete paper study of antiaircraft guided missile problems.7 Specifically, BTL was asked to explore the feasibility of constructing an antiaircraft defense system that would be capable of engaging high-speed, maneuverable bombers far beyond the range of ordinary antiaircraft defenses. The target was designated as a 600-mph bomber of the B-29 type, flying at altitudes from twenty to sixty thousand feet and capable of a 3g8 maneuver at forty thousand feet. The range of attack was to extend to sixty thousand feet ground range.9

Feasibility Study - System Philosophy

An early analysis of the antiaircraft guided missile problem confirmed the fact that a ground-controlled guided missile would be required, because of the specification for long range and the requirement of countering maneuver. Following this decision, active work on the project was undertaken by BTL and its staff of several thousand scientists and engineers. During the initial study period, which was virtually complete by the middle of May 1945, BTL was assisted by many scientific groups skilled in the techniques required to make a successful antiaircraft guided missile system.

The study phase culminated in an oral presentation to about seventy officers and civilians of the Army on 14 May 1945, followed by a formal report entitled "AAGM Report"lO on 15 July 1945. The latter report formed the basis for examination and experimental verification of the many problems with which designers were faced. It showed good likelihood that an effective surface-to-air guided missile could be evolved by extending radar and electronic computer techniques developed during the war, and by exploring the little known realms of supersonic flight.

The design of the weapon system proposed in the AAGM Report was dictated by two primary considerations. First, to expedite development of the new weapon, it was felt that the system design should be based on known devices, methods, and techniques in the various engineering fields. In effect, this meant that system development should not be delayed pending completion of research projects which were still in a stage of uncertain success. To illustrate, this philosophy dictated the use of a liquid fuel rocket motor, rather than other theoretically superior but undeveloped propulsion systems; while on the other hand, radar requirements for the command system required several-fold improvement in accuracy over the performance of any existing radar. The second axiom accepted into the system design philosophy was that the major complexity of the system should be located on the ground, leaving the vehicle itself as simple and reliable as possible. In line with the latter consideration, it was found possible to concentrate on the ground not only the guidance function, but the fuzing function as well, since the accuracy of the system was sufficient to pin point the burst with great accuracy relative to the target.ll

After surveying the state of the artl2 and investigating feasible means of propulsion and guidance, BTL scientists reduced their findings into a specific recommendation:

"A supersonic rocket missile should be vertically launched under the thrust of a solid-fuel booster which was then to be dropped; thence, self-propelled by a liquid-fuel motor, the missile should be guided to a predicted intercept point in space and detonated by remote control commands; these commands should be transmitted by radio signals determined by a ground-based computer associated with radar which would track both the target and the missile in flight.l3

At the outset, it was recognized that the construction of a tactical weapons system from the basic concept described in the AAGM Report would require extensive development effort. Many complex technical problems would have to be solved; Innumerable test vehicles would have to be designed, built, and tested; numerous components would have to be combined and integrated into an automatically operative system; and finally, the composite system would have to be flight tested to prove component performance under field conditions. But before these objectives could be realized, an effective R&D program geared to meet Ordnance requirements bad to be organized, and basic policies and procedures had to be established to assure top level control and coordination of the overall program. It is the program planning and development effort to which this study now turns.

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Footnotes for Chapter 1 - Introduction
  1. OCM Item 23905, LONG-RANGE ROCKET AND LAUNCHING EQUIPMENT - Initiation of Development Project, Recommended," 25 May 44; and OCM Item 24023, "LONG-RANGE ROCKET AND LAUNCHING EQUIPMENT - Initiation of Development Project, Approved," 1 Jun 44 (ARCMA Tech Library).
  2. "An Introduction to Guided Missiles," The Antiaircraft Artillery & Guided Missile School, Ft Bliss, Tex., Special Text 44-150, Apr 53, p.3 (ARGMA Tech Library).
  3. "Weapons for the Defeat of Aircraft," OCO, Oct 53, 3:3 (ARGMA Tech Library).
  4. Ltr, OCO to ASF, file 0.0. 471.6/1392, I8 Jan45; and 1st Ind thereto, ASF to OCO, 26 Jan 45 (cited in OCM 29012, 13 Sep 45).
  5. Ltr, OCO to Err, file 0.0. 400.112/18428, subj: "Proposed Study of Antiaircraft Problems by Bell Telephone Laboratories," 31 Jan 45.
  6. "Ordnance Guided Missile & Rocket Programs - NIKE," RSA, 30 Jun 55, II:4 (ARGMA Tech Library).
  7. Ltr Order W-30-069-ORD-3182, B Feb 45, NYOD.
  8. "g" is defined as the gravitational acceleration of terrestrial bodies toward the center of the earth, which is about 32.16 feet per sec per sec.
  9. "Project NDCE System Test Report BTL and DAC, 1 Sep 53, 1:3 (ARGMA Tech Library).
  10. A study of an Antiaircraft Guided Missile System.
  11. Test Report, op. cit., 1;.4.
  12. Tech info re contemporary German AAGM projects, such as Wasserfall, Enzian, Rheintochter or Schmetterling, was not yet aval.
  13. "Project NIKE, History of Development," BTL and DAC, 1 Apr 54, 1:2; verified by "AAGM Report" (A Study of an Antiaircraft Guided Missile System) BTL, 15 Jul 45 (ARGMA Tech library).

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On 16 June 1945, following the verbal presentation of Feasibility study results in May, the Ordnance Department--with agreement of the Air Corps--assumed full sponsorship of Project NIKE and charged the WECo and BTL, as principal subcontractor, with full responsibility for its execution. By September 1945, sufficient progress had been made in the preliminary study phase to warrant the initiation of a project for the development of an antiaircraft guided missile for ground to air firing.

Initiation of Development Project

The initial development plan, as approved by the Ordnance Technical Committee on 13 September 1945, was based on tentative military characteristics recommended by the Antiaircraft Artillery Board.1 These characteristics described a self-propelled guided missile, complete with a suitable fire control system and launching equipment, for use against high-speed aerial targets. Since the state of development at that time did not permit establishment of detailed characteristics, the Antiaircraft Artillery Board indicated that the tentative requirements should be considered as "desirable but not restrictive." Accordingly, the tentative characteristics were accepted as a guide in the initial development project and were subject to revision as the design developed.2

Based on the foregoing action, the WECo contract (W-3O-O69-ORD-3182) was supplemented on 21 September 1945 to increase the scope of work. Including a fixed fee of 5%, this contract supplement amounted to $4,895,450 It covered the research, design, development and engineering work required to produce a suitable guided missile, together with the necessary accessories and related launching equipment, to attack highspeed (up to 600 mph), high altitude (60,000 feet) aircraft.3

Organization of the R&D Program

The NIKE R&D Program, as organized by BTL, was based on the integration of skills of various industrial organizations. The Douglas Aircraft Company (DAC), which had already been active in the guided missile field during the war under sponsorship of the National Defense Research Council, accepted the major subcontract for the required aerodynamic studies, far the engineering and fabrication of the missiles with the associated booster and launcher devices, and for conducting the proving ground firing tests. In turn, DAC called upon the AeroJet Engineering Corporation4 for the liquid-fuel rocket motor and solid-fuel booster rockets. The Jet propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the California Institute of Technology consented to act as consultant on propulsion system matters for both DAC and Aerojet. The assistance of numerous other companies and agencies was enlisted to develop specialized instruments needed in the process of testing the components and the ballistic performance of the system.

In addition to the overall management of the project, BTL reserved, as its own technical domain, the design and construction of the radars and computer, and the development of the guidance and missile control system, as well as the missile borne responder and command receiver system. BTL further undertook the determination of the best warhead configuration in close cooperation with the Ballistics Research Laboratory (BRL) at Aberdeen Proving Ground. With the full approval of the Chief of Ordnance, BTL also retained the initiative in and responsibility for all major technical decisions. Emphasizing the desirability of such unified system coordination, the Chief of Ordnance established resident liaison offices at the contractors' locations.5

Pursuant to existing policy relating to the development of guided missile systems, Army Ordnance retained the responsibility for development of those items falling in fields familiar to Ordnance and other technical services. However, requirements for the various components were determined by the prime contractor in the exercise of his overall responsibility for the system.

Accordingly, the responsibility for development of the high explosive fragmentation warhead was assigned to Picatinny Arsenal, with Frankford Arsenal and the Diamond Ordnance Fuse laboratory receiving assignments on safety and arming mechanisms. Some of this work was contracted by Picatinny and Frankford Arsenals.

Parts of the M5 JAT06 were developed by the Allagany Ballistics Laboratory under contract to the Bureau of Ordnance of the Navy. Among these were the metal case, nozzle, grain, igniter, and internal parts. Other parts, including the fins, thrust structure, launching lugs, nozzle shroud, and fin mounting fittings, were developed by the BTL-DAC team.

The Corps of Engineers performed or contracted for the design of equipment for underground launchers and fixed sites, including elevators and associated mechanisms. The Corps of Engineers designed the engine generators and frequency converters, performed the product improvement effort on compressors, and developed air conditioning units and blast deflectors.

The Signal Corps was the responsible agency for development of the missile batteries and battery chargers, and also provided system communications equipment.

Redstone Arsenal was responsible for the development of missile shipping and storage containers. This work was contracted separately.7

Program Control and Policy Guidance

From the date of inception of the NIKE Project to August 1951, the program was directed, coordinated, and supervised by the Rocket Branch of the Office, Chief of Ordnance. On or about 16 August 1951, the responsibility for conduct of the NIKE program was transferred from the Rocket Branch, OCO, to Redstone Arsenal, the latter then becoming the sole source of instruction to the contractor. In general, the responsibilities transferred to Redstone Arsenal covered the monitoring, coordinating, and conducting of the technical aspects of the project.

The Rocket Branch, OCO, retained responsibility far general direction and for rendering decisions in such matters as (1) policy, scope, and objectives of the project, and (2) original approach and major changes in the design, performance, and operation of the missile.8 In February 1953, Redstone Arsenal assumed the additional responsibility of maintaining close technical liaison with other Government field installations engaged in development projects related to the NIKE System.9

Basic program guidance was published in the form of Ordnance Technical Committee Meeting Items.10

The R&D phase of the program was guided by carefully planned programs and schedules, which were reviewed once or twice a year in joint planning conferences. Ordnance representatives exercised continuous supervision over project developments to assure that a realistic outlook toward eventual tactical requirements was maintained, that cooperation of existing Government research and test facilities was secured, and that such facilities were used to the maximum practical extent.

Early in the program, a basic philosophy of procedure was adopted to insure the timely accomplishment of the goal of proving the command type of antiaircraft guided missile weapon as a practical system. The R&D phase was designed to lead in due course to a convincing field system test of a complete physical array of equipment. Although it was to be fully operative and reasonably approximate the desired performance characteristics of the ultimate tactical version, it did not necessarily have to possess all the practical features which would be demanded of combat-serviceable tactical articles. Consequently, it was agreed that It would not matter if the test system hardware were so intricate or experimental as to require maintenance by specialists and operation by engineers and technicians rather than soldiers. Prototype or model construction techniques could be used; quantity production aspects could be ignored. however, as noted in the preceding chapter of this study, it was decided that the system design should be based on proven devices, methods, and techniques, rather than unproven or radically new ones, in order to expedite the project. Furthermore, it was decided to measure everything that was necessary in order to monitor the desired performance, even if it meant the acquisition of special instruments or the design and construction of new ones.

The benefits derived from these policies and procedures were manifold. In numerous instances, instrumentation and photographic records revealed unsuspected phenomena or disclosed reasons for missile misbehavior which could not have been otherwise foreseen. Of particular significance was the field of supersonic missile flight. Here much new information had to be gleaned from numerous test firings which were arranged to yield data covering not only those areas which would corroborate wind-tunnel tests, but also those which would bridge previous gaps of knowledge of lift, drag, and control characteristics. Many other lessons concerning missile stability, launching, boosting, tracking, and guidance detonation had to be learned in the course of actual experiments in flight.ll

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Footnotes for Chapter 2 - DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROGRAM
  1. See Appendix 1 for complete list of tentative mil characteristics.
  2. OCM 29012, "Antiaircraft Guided Missile for Ground to Air Firing Initiation of a Development Project, Recommended," 13 Sep 45; approved by OCM 29277, 4 Oct 45 (AROMR Tech library).
  3. Walter R. Bylund, History of NIKE Project, 24 Apr 54, NYOD.
  4. Now known as AeroJet-General Corporation.
  5. Project NIKE, History of Development, op. cit., 1:3.
  6. Occasionally referred to as the NIKE I Booster.
  7. Ord Guided Missile & Rocket Programs - NIKE, op. cit., II:49 f
  8. Ltr, OCO to CO RSA, file ORDTU 0.0; 682/159, subj "Transfer of Research and Development Responsibility to Redstone Arsenal," dated 26 Jul 51 (see Appendix 2).
  9. Ltr, OCO to CG RSA, file ORDTU 0.0. 471-9/303, subJ "Assignment of Responsibility for Technical Supervision of Developments Related to the NIKE Project," dated 19 Feb 53 (see Appendix 3).
  10. For compl list of OCM's relating to NIKE Proj, see Appendix 4.
  11. Project NIKE, History of Development, op. cit., 1:4.

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