Go to Table of Contents,
Go Back to Home Page


The R&D phase of the project actually extended over a period of some seven years, in the course of which a completely operative experimental weapon known as the NIKE R&D System was created. It comprised most of the essential components of a realistic tactical system, the first practical embodiment of which eventually overtook it when a tactical design, designated as NIKE I, was put into customer's test and even troop training operation while the R&D phase was still in its final stage.

This chapter describes the evolution of the NIKE System--how it progressed from a drawing board conception, through a series of developmental stages, to reach its climax as a complete experimental system for demonstration and test purposes beginning in late 1951. An effort is made to relate the NIKE development story in historical sequence as it unfolded itself; however, to minimize interruption and resumption of the tale of developmental progress of various components, the presentation must necessarily depart from a true chronological narrative. Yet, the various development phases of the program are divided roughly into calendar years for easy reference. The completion of one program phase and the beginning of the next did not always coincide with the new year or recur at twelve-month intervals; and the design, shop, laboratory, and field work of the various development phases had to overlap.

Plan of Development

The first outline of a hopeful minimum schedule, drafted as early as 27 July 1945, envisioned the execution of NIKE development by four agencies as listed in Figure 1. As the project progressed, however, this rather optimistic schedule had to be repeatedly revised. For instance, the total number of articles tested tripled the number visualized in the original estimate, and the time of the entire R&D program extended to April 1952--that is, to six and three-quarters years rather than four.

The actual history of the project, as viewed in retrospect, is reflected in Figure 2. The progress of the complex system is divided into major channels of pursuit relating to the computer, the radars, the control machinery, the booster, the missile structure, its aerodynamic performance, and its damage potential. Here again, the story cannot be told by merely following these columns through the years, because the efforts overlap, branch off, and recombine, and because other components such as the launcher, the test equipment, and accessories came into focal view as specific problems were encountered.

In line with the schedule shown in Figure 2, the project was broken down into several phases, each of which was established as a yearly development program. The 1946 Missile, designated as Model NIKE-46, was to be designed and fabricated far a field test program to study uncontrolled vertical flight. Wooden dummies and powered NIKE-46 missiles were scheduled for firing at White Sands Proving Ground to provide information on launching methods, booster propulsion, separation, motor performance, and flight stability data. The NIKE-47 model was to be a revised version of the KIKE-46 for continued uncontrolled vertical flight studies. Programmed control and roll stabilization were to be incorporated and tested in the NIKE-48 model. The final product, with full ground control and warhead provisions, was scheduled for completion and test as the Nike-49 model.

Figure 1. Tentative NIKE Development Schedule-July 1945

Figure 2. Steps of Nike Development

Basic Design Concept and Specifications

As specified in the initial AAGM study, the NIKE Missile was to be designed to provide a defense against aircraft capable of flying at 600 miles per hour at 60,000 feet altitude. The approximate practical horizontal range of the weapon was to be on the order of 12 miles. The highly maneuverable, high-speed missile was to be launched and steered from the ground, and guided to impact by signals derived from a radar tracing system.

The missile was proposed to be about 19 feet long, with an overall weight of 1,000 pounds, 300 pounds of which would be the weight of the fuel and oxidizer. Four large triangular fins were to be provided at the aft end of the fuselage, with four movable surfaces forward for missile control and guidance. The missile was to be fired vertically from a launching assembly of guide rails, and boosted to supersonic speed in about two seconds by a high-thrust booster unit having eight solid fuel rockets, with a total thrust of 93,000 pounds, arranged concentrically about the tail of the missile. The weight of this type of booster unit, with fins, was calculated at 2,020 pounds.

At the end of the boost phase, the booster assembly would be dropped and the missile would travel under its own liquid-fuel rocket power until the propellants were consumed, then zoom to impact. The performance characteristics were calculated on the basis of the use of a 3,000 pound thrust, regeneratively cooled rocket sustaining motor, with an aniline mixture as fuel and red fuming nitric acid as oxidizer, having a burn-out at 24.3 seconds after launching. The propellant tanks would be pressurized by metered pressure from a high-pressure nitrogen storage system.

The velocities expected from the missile were initially conceived at 1,750 feet per second at the end of a booster phase of 1.8 seconds, increasing almost continually to about 2,500 feet per second at the end of the missile meter operation, then decreasing to 1,150 feet per second at 96,000 feet during the zooming period. Calculations of velocity were not established beyond this point--a Mach number of l.2--because of uncertainty of control in the transonic region. The accelerations expected were about 25g at the start, increasing to about 35g at the end of the booster phase. A missile maneuverability requirement of 5g at 40,000 feet was tentatively chosen.

A stabilization system was to be incorporated to control the movement of the missile in roll, pitch, and yaw. A guidance system would maintain the missile upon an optimum trajectory to the point of fragmentation, based on data supplied by two radars--one tracking the target and the other tracking the missile--correlated and converted into steering information by a computer. The plan called for optimum fragmentation of the missile and warhead by a burst signal computed for each encounter for greatest kill probability.l

The NIKE R&D System, which was later developed by the foregoing specifications, is a lineal descendant of the original system conceived in the AAGM Report and differs from it only in comparatively minor respects. The nature of these changes and the subsequent history of Nike development are fully treated in succeeding portions of this Chapter.

Preliminary Design Studies

The latter half of 1945 and early 1946 was spent in planning the detailed requirements of the various components and in making early design studies and tests. The DAC came into the picture at this time and began a complete study of the aerodynamics of the missile as proposed in the initial AAGM study. Booster design was also started at this time by the AeroJet Manufacturing Company.

One of the first deliberate departures from the original system recommendations, accepted in the fall of 1945, concerned the radar tracking system. A study of the angular accuracy requirements of the tracking radars and echo fluctuation measurements on metal-painted free balloons and airplanes in flight revealed that conical lobing methods would be inadequate to yield the required smoothness and accuracy of data.l Radars had been used extensively during the war, not only for surveillance and detection, but also for the pointing of antiaircraft guns. Yet none of these was sufficiently accurate for the problems posed by the guided missile. Since the standard lobing radars developed during the war were limited by rapid pulse-to-pulse fading, it was obvious that a more accurate radar would have to be developed specifically for NIKE. The smoothness of output would have to be such that target acceleration maneuvers could be promptly detected and countered without long delays necessitated by smoothing rough data.

Hence a decision was made to develop a radar system which would provide an independent measurement of angular error on each pulse (monopulse type) and thus eliminate angular perturbations caused by rapid pulse-to- pulse fading.

Two different monopulse systems were studied. One was a phase comparison system, and the other an amplitude null system, in which the rapid fading signals received from the two-lobed beams are subtracted from each other to obtain the angle error signal. The latter method was decided upon because it was simpler and more readily mechanized.

Of other radar features, attention was focused on the problem of obtaining high transmitter power with a wide range of tunability to attain maximum protection from jamming. This study resulted in the development of 250-kilowatt X-band and 1000-kilowatt S-band tunable magnetrons for the NIKE and T-33 radars.

A missile model of 0.4 scale vas built in order to measure its radar reflectivity. Tests with a K-band radar illuminating the model led to the conclusion that in reflection tracking a range of between 50,000 and 100,000 feet could be attained with a radar peak power of 125 kilowatts at X-band. This would barely meet the original requirement of a 60,000 foot range for the missile. Meanwhile, it was found desirable to extend missile performance to 150,000 feet and the missile tracing range a like distance. To obtain a reliable signal from the missile by reflection tracking to this range would have required techniques too far beyond the state of the art. The only alternative vas to place a beacon responder in the missile to insure a clear missile signal. There were a number of other equally important factors that justified the use of the beacon responder. First the missile had to be acquired in the launcher the presence of strong ground echoes; second, at the separation of booster from the missile, both parts were likely to return equally strong reflection signals so that the booster could pull the radar off the missile; third, the flame during motor burning might cause tracking interference; and finally, during the end game the missile radar would have trouble distinguishing between the missile and target as the ranges became coincident. All of these problems were successfully solved by the responder, which provided an echo signal considerably stronger and different in frequency from any of the interfering signals.

Next to be considered were the problems connected with the design and operation of a suitable responder of very light weight. To obtain the features of a responder, it was only necessary to add a relatively small transmitter unit to the X-band receiver which was already required an board the missile to receive the steering and burst orders. Modulator circuits of the ground-to-missile communication system were constructed and successfully tested in the laboratory far performance.

Early in the design study phase, it became apparent that the actuators for tile control surfaces3 would require servomechanisms whose speed and torque exceeded that of any type then available. Because of the wide range of aerodynamic stiffness encountered, it was also recognized that the servos would have to be stable over a range of gain of aerodynamic hinge moments could be of the order of 2,000 inch-pounds in the case of roll, and 700 inch-pounds in the case of steering. Full deflection of fifteen degrees would have to be attained in about 0.1 second. A study of the problem indicated that it should be possible to fulfill these requirements with a hydraulic servo system governed by an electrically controlled valve. Since no valve was available to meet these requirements, a special development program was initiated to produce a series of hydraulic valves which were eventually used in all NIKE missiles.

As to the control scheme for the servo system, it was agreed that the main feedback would have to come from a free position gyro for roll control and from transverse accelerometers for the steering orders. Gyroscopes of various makes had already been developed for other purposes and mainly required the installation of suitable potentiometer pick-ups. Accelerometer transducers, however, were not currently available in a suitable range and with appropriate damping. Consequently, a program was initiated to develop a special NIKE accelerometer transducer with magnetic damping. The hydraulic servo power system comprising actuator pistons, pressure vessels, and plumbing could be recruited with minor refinements from the contemporary aircraft hydraulic art.

In the meantime, DAC had started an intensive study to determine the aerodynamic characteristics likely to be obtained from the missile configuration assumed in the AAGM Report. The advantages of the canard arrangement and the delta shape of the cruciform rear fins were soon confirmed and retained throughout the development. The movable fins in the forward part, however, were redesigned. They were reduced in area, moved farther ahead toward the nose for greater leverage, and their shape was altered from trapezoidal to a twenty-three-degree semi-vertex angle delta for lower drag and smaller center of pressure shift. Wind-tunnel test, were then conducted on a scale model of the new configuration at a Mach number of 1.72 in the only supersonic facility then available; vis., the Ballistics Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG). Though scanty in many respects, the test results gave the first directly applicable data concerning the aerodynamic behavior of this type vehicle in lift, brag, and pitching moment.4 Moreover, they partly confirmed and partly eased the conservative assumptions or restrictions adapted in the AAGM Report.

The NIKE missile structure was to be designed to provide adequate strength and rigidity with the least possible weight. Since a missile is expended on each flight, non-strategic materials were to be used wherever possible without sacrificing the strength-to-weight ratio needed to obtain rapid acceleration during the boost phase and high maneuverability during the guided flight phase. Other factors influencing the missile body design were aerodynamic smoothness, warhead fragment spray pattern, component packaging, and access to installations. Surface smoothness and the minimum practical thickness compatible with rigidity requirements were the main design criteria for the fins.

A preliminary design study of a practical missile structure dealt with such problems as weight estimates, the center of gravity due to fuel consumption, fuel flow, and ease of fabrication and assembly. For ease of fabrication, the tank structures were changed to comprise two spherical air pressure tanks and two separate cylindrical tanks for acid and aniline fuel, respectively. This simplified the fin attach structure and facilitated tank testing and accommodation of accessories in functionally-grouped sub-assemblies. The electronic guidance compartment and center warhead were interchanged to improve balance. In the area of control fins and their mechanisms, staggered shafts for pitch and yaw fins were advocated. As to the rear body, a sturdy motor mount was envisioned, with its plumbing readily accessible.

On the basis of experience just being gained with WAC CORPORAL missiles undergoing tests at White Sands Proving Ground (WSPG) [Now known as White Sands Missile Range-name changed in 1958.], design studies of cooled and uncooled motors were begun at AeroJet Corporation.

The choice of a suitable and industrially procurable booster was narrowed down to two alternatives: one comprising eight ten-inch T-1OE1 rockets, and the other a quadruple cluster of thirteen and one-half-inch Aerojet rockets. Canting the rockets or their nozzles was considered as a possible means to reduce or avoid undesirable thrust moments. The booster-to-missile attachment was studied with a view to avoiding high loads and separation difficulties.

A continuing program of warhead design and experiments was carried on between BTL and BRL. The first proposed warhead consisted of a small tapered central cylinder of high explosive which would eject a mass of shrapnel pellets in a flat expanding shaped disk shower, whose velocity was essentially the missile's terminal velocity. Meanwhile, new data on small high-velocity fragmentation warheads made these appear more attractive from the lethality point of view and also because they allowed for the possibility of an effective tail chase. For the next four years, an experimental program was carried on to produce an adequately wide fragment beam, to obtain uniform velocity distribution over the beam, and to provide uniform break-up into fragments of the double-wound wrap of wire which constituted the source of the lethal particles.5

The design studies and decisions just discussed were reviewed in a planning conference on 28 January 1946, and the development program for the 1946 NIKE was established.

System Component Development and First Test Firings
January 1946 to January 1

The period essentially covering the year 1946 was deliberately devoted to the independent development of major system components, which was pushed forward on many technical fronts. It included laboratory simulator work and culminated in the first real experimental missile firings on the test range.

As stated in the section dealing with the plan of development, the 1946 NIKE was to be designed and fabricated for uncontrolled vertical flight tests to provide information on launching methods, booster propulsion, separation, motor performance, and flight stability. While the preliminary design studies were being reduced to practical application in the form of the 1946 NIKE missile, work was continued on development of ground guidance components for installation and test in later missiles.


To gain experience with monopulse tracking in the X-band region, an SCR-545 radar was converted to this new type of operation. In making this conversion, the antenna system was replaced by a monopulse rapid- fading (RF) system with a lens antenna. The performance of the SCR-545 mount for the monopulse system was improved by the addition of tachometer feedback in the angle servos.

As originally envisioned in the AAGM Report, the target and missile tracking radars were to be combined into a single mount with two separate lens antennas mounted on a rotatable beam structure on top of a common radar van. The azimuth of the target radar beam was to be adjusted by moving the entire beam structure, and the difference between the target azimuth and the missile azimuth was to be adjusted by moving the missile radar antenna with respect to the beam structure. This original plan was dropped mainly because of the excessive power requirements to meet the slewing rates and because of the problem of one antenna assembly shadowing the other when mounted in such close proximity.

Consideration was then given to the idea of having both antennas rotate in azimuth with respect to the beam structure and making the beam structure rotate only as required to prevent shadowing. Further study of this dual mount, however, revealed serious drawbacks, such as severe requirements of the mechanical rigidity of the top-heavy rotating super- structure, bending of the beam assembly due to solar heat, and the problem of placement of a common vehicle so that radar visibility is obtained in all launchers without jeopardy of best target coverage of the defense zone.

To avoid these difficulties, it was finally decided to abandon the dual mount structure and accept completely separate mounts as a more attractive solution. With each track antenna assembly mounted on a separate low-slung flat bed trailer, both mounts must be accurately leveled and an adjustable parallax correction provided in the computer.

The basic power supply for the radar was standardized at 400 cycles per second rather than the usual sixty cycles per second because of saving in weight and size for power equipment. Experimental studies of the acquisition radar resulted in the choice of S-band and in the raising of the power requirement of the tunable magnetron tube to 1,000 kilowatts.


In a system such as NIKE, the characteristics of the guidance computer are of critical importance during the last few seconds before intercept. It was recognized that one of the terminal accuracy problems centered around the possibility of filtering out the tracking noise without unduly delaying the recognition of a true target maneuver. Same thought was given to determining the optimum steering function by hand computations; however, it was soon realized that the enormous number of sample computations required would make such a procedure virtually impossible.

Consequently, early in 1946, an analog device called the Computer-Analyzer was build specifically to analyze the end game. This apparatus solved the guidance equations in two dimensions so that lateral miss could be studied under wide variations in the steering order equations, the noise level, the smoothing and stability parameters, and the magnitude, nature, and timing of target evasion. Over 7,000 runs, comprising nearly 700 distinct situations, were made and analyzed. From these runs emerged optimum smoothing, prediction, and order-shaping techniques, in addition to a large body of knowledge concerning the effects of various kinds of target maneuvers. The circuits of the R&D computer were based on this analysis.

By the end of 1946, the computer design had advanced to a block diagram stage from which the detail design could be made. The computer philosophy adopted was quite different from that conceived in the original AAGM Report, but most of the basic plans were retained in modified form. To simplify the prediction process, the coordinate system of the computer was changed from the polar radar form to Cartesian earthbound axes, oriented according to the pre-launch axis bearing of the missile gyro. This presentation was more adapted to overcome the parallax problems inherent to the two separate antenna stations for missile and target radars, and the considerable separation required by the radar and launching sites. It also afforded greater flexibility in choosing the most advantageous trajectory shape, as well as easing the resolution of steering orders into their pitch and yaw components. These changes also necessitated the introduction of a new method of trajectory shaping to approach the most efficient night path.

Detail design studies were started on the subjects of steering order computer, prelaunch computer, burst computer, sequence of operation, component accuracies, voltage regulation, standardized feedback amplifiers, radar-to-computer data, transmission system, and visual means for displaying the attack.7

NIKE-46 Missile

At the beginning of the 1946 development period, a decision had been made to proceed with the manufacture of fourteen experimental missiles for flight test at WSPD in the fall of the same year. The first four of these were to be ballasted wooden dummies simulating a missile in shape and inherent dynamic properties only. In addition to furnishing much needed drag information, they were destined to prove booster propulsion and separation or to show what unexpected problems might arise. The other ten were to be real missiles in the sense that they would be equipped with a self-sustaining power plant. No attempt was yet to be made at roll stabilization. Neither would these missiles be controlled in pitch or yaw; their fins were to be fixed. The purpose of the latter ten rounds was to study power plant operation and flight stability under power.

Wind-tunnel tests of the 7.5 per cent model of the NIKE missile were continued at APG to cover an intermediate speed (Mach number 1.28), in addition to the higher one (Mach number 1.72) previously explored. These experiments were supplemented by subsonic teats on other scaled models in the ten-foot wind tunnel at the California Institute of Technology. Lift, drag, and stability, as well as aileron and control fin hinge moments, were determined and found to be generally satisfactory.

The design of the first test missile was frozen by the middle of February, 1946. This design (see Figure 3) embodied a cruciform delta wing canard configuration, the details of which have already been discussed. Though basic requirement of the concept8 were maintained during the engineering and fabrication of the 1946 missile, certain revisions were made in the light of actual design development and in the adaption or the missile to its uncontrolled test program functions.

Figure 3. NIKE-46 Missile & Booster in 4-Rail Launcher (12 Nov 46, WSFG)

Booster Assembly.

Among the principal changes was the use of four parallel Aerojet solid fuel (Paraplex) rockets with uncanted nozzles, designed to deliver a thrust of 22,000 pounds each for two seconds and impel the 1946 type of test missile to supersonic velocity. The early designs-based on the grouping of eight T10E1 11,000-pound thrust rocket units-were discarded at the end of March 1946, when the development of the larger Aerojet units had sufficiently progressed for incorporation in the 1946 program. Development of the 22,000-pound-thrust booster rocket for the NIKE-46 was initiated at the Aerojet Engineering Corporation in April 1046, under a subcontract from DAC. Aerojet was to furnish 56 boosters, to be assembled in clusters of four each bye DAC. Preliminary development of the booster assembly was completed in July 1946 and static proof firings were started in the following month. Out of a total of 68 full-scale firings, eight failures were experienced, two of which occurred at WSPG. One additional failure occurred near the end of boost in a WSPGP launching, when the nozzle of one unit was burned through. Although the test results indicated a need for further improvement in reliability and reproducibility, booster performance gave promise of ultimate fulfillment of the desired degree of reproducibility.

The propellant finally selected for the booster rocket consisted of a single perforated grain Paraplex-base fuel and potassium perchlorate oxidizer. The particular formulation of constituents used for this application was designated as AK-6 propellant (formerly called PF-6), having the following composition by weight: Potassium Perchlorate, 73L%; Paraplex P-10, 26.85%; and Tertiary-Butyl Hydrogen Peroxide, 0.15%. The ignition element consisted of granular black blasting powder contained in a plastic capsule, together with two ordinary electric blasting squibs which served as initiators.9

Power Plant The power plant for the Nike-46 missiles comprised a bi-propellant, regeneratively cooled, liquid rocket motor. Developed and manufactured by AeroJet as Model X21AL-2600, the 40-pound motor was designed to produce a sea level thrust of 2,600 pounds for 21 seconds A fuel mixture containing about 65% aniline and 35% furfuryl alcohol was oxidized by red fuming nitric acid. The liquid load consisted of 220 pounds of oxidizer and 80 pounds of fuel. The propellant tanks were constructed as integral structural parts of the missile fuselage.

Development of the rocket engine for the 1946 NIKE was initiated at AeroJet late in 1945, under a subcontract from DAC. Aerojet was to furnish rocket meters, control valves, and pressure regulators (for pressure feed system) for ten missiles. Other components of the power plant, including tanks, lines, and starting valve, were designed and fabricated by DAC. The development tests were completed by the end of April 1946.

The design of the prototype assemblies vas predicated on the final version of the respective experimental assemblies. The prototype motor and control valve were successfully fire-tested on the thrust stand during May. Final proof fire tests were made in a mockup of the actual NIKE installation, using the field firing sequence. Test results were equal to specification requirements and the design was declared adequate. The complete power plant was then subjected to a fall-scale static test at WSPG. Acceptance tests on the tenth motor were completed in September 1946.10

Structural Arrangements In the structural arrangements, the delta shape was selected for both the control fins and main fins to improve the lift-to-drag ratio, and the control fins were moved farther forward along the missile body than was suggested in the basic plan. The design studies revealed that considerable advantage could be gained in the use of two spherical tanks for the high-pressure gas storage, mounted between separate tanks for the oxidizer and the fuel. With this arrangement, the space around the spheres could be used for improved wing-attach structure and power plant components, and the aft section could be removed as a unit for easy access to the motor installation. The wing structure vas designed, in conjunction with the booster assembly, to reduce the moment arm of the applied thrust of individual booster cylinders.

After allocations had been made for missile components, the length of the missile vas increased from the proposed 19 feet to 19.5 feet in order to provide additional warhead space. The proposed warhead was first divided into tun units, one to be located in the nose section and the other in the aft section. On the basis of fragmentation tests, it was later decided to divide the warheads into three sections--one located in the nose section, another in the middle section forward of the oxidizer tank, and the third in the afterbody of the vehicle forward of the motor installation. Space intended for the warheads, control mechanisms, and radio equipment of the final missile was used for instrumentation and beacon radio installations in the NIKE-46.11


All experimental missiles were instrumented in an effort to gain as much quantitative performance information as feasible from each and every flight. The R&D design philosophy was governed by a decision that missiles were never to be fired as mere test vehicles but as steps in the evolution of the eventual weapon. Consequently, instrumentation had to be accommodated where space could be found. During the early stages of the test program when no control equipment or warheads were carried in the missile, there was sufficient room for internal instrumentation. However, as development progressed and more control mechanisms were carried in test flights, less space remained for instrumentation. In the final version, which included warheads, no internal space was left and external instrumentation had to suffice.

The original program called for simple missile-borne instrumentation to record linear accelerations and rolling motion in flight of the powered test missiles. Telemetry was expected to emerge eventually as the ultimate solution for future missile-flight test-recording work; however, none of the missile telemetry development programs then being pursued had progressed far enough to produce a reliable apparatus that would fit into the NIKE test rounds at the time the NIKE-46 program was crystallized. Therefore, a conventional photographic system of recording instruments was used in the hope that a legible film might be recovered from the impact wreckage. No recording instruments were carried by the three dummy rounds. Each powered missile was equipped with a radar beacon to serve as a tracking aid.l2

Launcher Equipment

The basic launcher arrangement, as taken from the AAGM Report, consisted of four vertical guide rails spaced at 900 about the missile, but passing within the booster structure. As the booster cylinders-originally eight Tl0El units-were supported outside the guide rails, the members had to be cantilevered from a rigid base. In later design development of the booster, when the T1OE1 rockets were replaced by four Aerojet 22,000-pound thrust motors, further restrictions were placed on the size and location of the guide rails which could be accommodated within the booster structure. The length and cross-section of the rails were determined by calculating the cantilever length feasible for the moment of inertia of the members and consideration of the booster velocity and stability which would be obtained in the launcher at take-off.

The design of the mechanism for raising and lowering the rails was dictated by the availability of component equipment. This problem eliminated hydraulic mechanisms, and to a large degree restricted the kind of electric actuator, which would be considered. A one horsepower electric motor was selected to drive a cable drum through a worm gear reducer.

The first such mechanical launcher, from which the 1946 series of test missiles were to be launched at WSPG, was built in the form of an assembly of four parallel steel rails of hollow rectangular cross-section welded to 8 pivoted root frame on which it could be tilted to a horizontal position for loading and raised for (nearly) vertical launching. (Note launcher assembly in Figure 3.) During the launching operation, the missile would slide upward between the rails, guided by pins, while launcher proved adequate, it was subject to appreciable vibrations which were difficult to measure. The vibration problem was later eliminated in several steps of redesign of the launcher, all aimed at making it sturdier and simpler.13

Missile Designations

For record purposes, the missiles were identified by a double set of labels; viz., a "Round Number" and a "Missile Number." The Round Number was a chronological firing test serial number, the dummies being identified by alphabetical letters beginning with Round A and powered flight launchings by numerals beginning with Round 1. The Missile Number, which served as a factory identification number, consisted of two symbols separated by a hyphen, the first part denoting the design year or model number and the second pert (after the hyphen) denoting a chronological manufacturing serial number. Dummy missiles were serially designated by letters placed after the model number prefix--e.g., NIKE-46-A--while powered missiles were distinguished by numerals, beginning with Missile No. NIKE 46-1.14

First Experimental Firings

In the fall of 1946, test facilities at WSPG were readied for the first experimental series of NIKE firings. Fourteen missiles had been manufactured and delivered, four of which were inert (wooden) dummies and ten were powered but uncontrolled missiles. The dummy missiles were constructed by mounting production-type main and control fins to solid fuselages made with laminated mahogany. All the test missiles were ballasted with lead to bring the gross weight to 1,000 pounds, as originally specified for the final weapon. The expendable portion of this weight amounted to 312 pounds--220 lbs. oxidizer, 8O lbs. fuel, and 12 lbs. air. The basic design characteristics of the NIKE-46 missile and its components have already been discussed.

Before conducting the first flight test, one missile (No. 46-1) was static-fired to prove power plant operation, to test the servicing and firing equipment, to determine the effect of motor operation on performance of the radar beacon and missile instrumentation equipment, and to familiarize the field personnel with the techniques involved. After the static test firing on 17 September 1946, Missile 46-1 was returned to the DAC Santa Monica Plant, where it was inspected and overhauled. It was then sent back to WSPG and flight fired as Round 4 of the test series.

Flight firings of the NIKE-46 missile began at WSPG on 24 September 1946 and continued through 28 January 1947. Of the fourteen missiles provided for the 1946 test program, three wooden dummies and eight powered but uncontrolled missiles were actually expended during this series of firings. A ninth round (Missile No. 46-4) was recovered intact, though damaged, after a booster misfire. (One dummy and one actual missile--46-D and 46-10--were not fired in this series but were reserved for a future test purposes.)l5 A brief account of the first twelve flight firings is given in Table 1 of Appendix 5.

(dummy) tests were entirely successful. The boosters detached themselves at altitudes of about 2,000 feet and the missiles coasted to altitudes of 30,600, 43,300, and 42,150 feet, respectively. These unpowered tests convincingly demonstrated the feasibility of vertical take-off under boost thrust, acceleration to a supersonic velocity of about 1,900 feet per second, and stable flight before and after booster separation.

Figure 4. NIKE 46-1 in Flight (18 Oct 46, WSPG)

The first unguided powered missile tests followed in rapid succession. They were spectacular and full of dramatic surprises. The very first one, fired on 8 October 1946, made a completely successful flight, reaching an estimated peak altitude of 140,000 feet. The second round traveled 17 miles and the eighth over 25 miles, demonstrating not only more than the predicted range capability, but also the need for safety destruction in case of a runaway.16

Both the second and eighth rounds reached a peak altitude of over 100,000 feet.

However, the other rounds were unsuccessful because of poor a peak altitude of only 58,900 feet, exhibited intermittent motor operation and poor separation of the missile-booster combination. The separation problem repeated itself in the fourth and fifth rounds; the sixth and seventh rounds were wrecked by booster explosions during launch; and the ninth round was a booster misfire.

Failure of motor operation in Round 4 and complete loss of the motor after separation in Round 5, together with other evidence of structural damage, led to the conclusion that some violent lurch was caused and damage was inflicted by the booster upon the missile aft section during separation. This trouble was presumably due to some irregularity of thrust or premature burn-out of one or more of the four rocket boosters. To remedy this problem, guide rails were installed between the missile and the booster, and the booster nozzles were canted so that the line of thrust of each booster would pass through the center of gravity of the missile. Some thought was given to changing the entire booster concept; however, it was decided to continue with the four-booster unite, at least for the time being, so that other parts of the program could advance on schedule.

Information obtained from missile tracking radars was very meager since the tracking beacon was silenced in every instance by violent events during or at the end of boost, frustrating the planned tracking tests. The troubles encountered in the first few rounds were diagnosed with reasonable certainty and corrected: however, in most of the latter rounds the beacon vas damaged along with other items in the rear of the missile. The fact that the beacon failed during boost rather than at separation indicated the existence of more problems than those attributed to poor separation.

The discovery, analysis, and clarification of problems encountered during these experimental firings came as a result of elaborate instrumentation. Arrangements had been made with WSPG to obtain maximum coverage of the missile trajectory from the network of cinetheodolite stations then available. This was still in a somewhat rudimentary stage in 1946; time correlation of stations was precarious and indirect, frame sequence was four exposures per second at best, and evaluation was unmechanized and painfully slow. Thus, the accuracy of position data obtained was hardly sufficient to determine acceleration to a significant precision.

It was therefore fortunate that provision had been made to equip the missile with airborne instruments. In the early period, before the advent of reliable radio telemetry, this was done by means of a flight recorder which consisted of two missile-borne motion picture cameras photographing tvo sets of instruments in flight. These instruments were axial end transverse accelerometers, a fuel regulator pressure gauge, several aerodynamic pressure gauges, and a heliograph. The latter was a specially developed optical device which, with the aid of four extreme wide-angle lenses, produced a pictorial record of the relative position of the sun and the horizon. From these records, the history of the attitude and orientation of the missile in space could be reconstructed by a somewhat laborious evaluation technique. But first the impact of the missile on the ground had to be located by a search team and the armored film cases had to be recovered from the wreckage. It was often necessary to dig a considerable depth before retrieving the film records.

To improve the changes of film records surviving the impact, film magazines were protected by means of armored cases and shock-absorbing packing, and the velocity of impact was reduced by blasting the main fins during descent.

The photographic records disclosed a number of significant episodes. One was the occurrence of a prolonged stable corkscrew motion of Round 2 on its spectacular 17-mile flight. A somewhat similar motion was observed on Round 3 which was also troubled by malfunction of the pressure regulator in the fuel feed system, and a chemical fuel fire started in flight which eventually set off the fin destructor, causing the missile to tumble during its subsequent descent. improvised booster-borne cameras gave pictorial evidence of kinematic separation difficulties.

Propulsion and Aerodynamic Test Program
(January 1941 to December 1947)

In November 1946, while the field test program was still in progress and before the seriousness of the booster difficulties was fully realized, a planning conference was held at WSPG to map out a tentative but optimistic missile test program for the next two years. This program was designed to lead in a systematic sequence of stages to the development of a practical missile which could be flown under command of radar and computer as soon as the latter equipment became available. Thus the system guidance loop would be demonstrated in action. The development test program envisioned the successive construction of a family of missiles controllable to a gradually increasing degree. In case of troubles or malfunctions, it was decided that the firing program would be interrupted or expanded and recognized errors rectified before proceeding.

Radar Development

In 1947 radar development effort was directed toward the determination of the best antenna configuration and antenna axes orientation. After investigating various alternatives, the requirement of tracking the target through the zenith was eliminated. This region was not considered sufficiently important to justify the additional complexity in a guided missile system in which the intercepts usually occur on the incoming course. Considerable development and experimental work was also devoted to radar gain control. Since the speed of response of the gain control circuits in a monopulse was no longer limited by the lobing rate, the initial work was directed toward proving an instantaneous gain control circuit in which the gain would be properly set for the level of such {?each?} return pulse. Such a circuit was tried successfully but was later replaced by a simpler wide-band integrating type of automatic gain control.

During the fall of 1947, the improvised experimental monopulse radar set was equipped with a 6-foot X-band lens and put through extensive three-coordinate operation, tracking various aerial targets at Whippany, New Jersey. Accuracies considerably better than one angular mil were consistently attained for short periods and one decimil deemed within reach. While much work was destined to be done before achieving consistent high accuracy, the superiority of this type radar over any previously available system was already convincingly demonstrated.

While the above tracking tests were in progress, basic advances were made in the improvement of rapid-fading plumbing for the mono-pulse radar then under development for the field test program at WSPG. Comparison studies were conducted on Hybrid rings and tees to determine the advantages of each, particularly tin regard to wide-band operation. Hybrid rings in tandem proved to be the better and were adopted for the final R&D monopulse plumbing. At the same time, studies were made to find the best method of fabricating the plumbing to meet the close mechanical tolerances required.18

The NIKE-47 test missiles were beacon-tracked at WSPG with an SCR-584 radar modified for operation in the X-band. Radar tracking in these test was generally good. Acquisition of missile in the launcher and automatic tracking of missile during boost and separation were accomplished and verified as a solution to the missile acquisition problem. However the microphonic response of the beacon to boost shock was troublesome. A greater signal output was considered necessary to improve the signal-to-noise ratio, and better antenna pattern in the missile tail aspect appeared desirable.19

The 1947 missiles were also equipped with improvised "fail-safe" circuits to enable detonation of the missile in the event of loss of contact between the ground radar and the missile-borne beacon.20


Studies of the various computer section and their detail design were continued. The problem of radar-to-computer data transmission received particular attention due to the great accuracy required of the voltages representing the missile and target positions in space. Two possible methods were under consideration: (1) the construction of exceptionally accurate potentiometers to be directly driven by the radar shafts, as in gun fire director systems; or (2) a two-speed synchro data transmission system driving two-speed potentiometers in the computer.

The original AAGM assumptions on the aerodynamic capabilities of the missile proved to be unnecessarily conservative. Investigation revealed that the time of night could be shortened and computer computations simplified by adopting a flight path which-though departing from the optimum in range-would follow a single dive order sustained until the missile had turned from vertical flight onto a ballistic trajectory through the predicted point of intercept. This control scheme was eventually adopted for the NIKE R&D Test System.

The original scheme of stabilizing the missile in roll was replaced by a more flexible scheme which was actually easier to mechanize but conceptionally more involved. In place of keeping the "belly" fins precisely vertical, it holds the plane of the "transverse" fins normal to the vertical orientation plane in which the free gyro is released at take-off.

Click here to go to rest of Chapter 3

Go to Table of Contents,

  1. "Project NIKE Technical Report," BTL, 15 Ju147, sec 2, chap 1, p. 2 (ARGMA Tech Lib, R-14951).
  2. S. Darlington, "Radar Specifications for Project NIKE" Rept MM-45- 110-78, 1 Nov 45 (ARDMA Tech Lib).
  3. Control Surface is defined as a movable airfoil designed to rotated or otherwise moved by control servomechanism in order to change the attitude of the aircraft. In final stage of steering, control surfaces change the flight path of the missile by application of some force in response to the directing signals.
  4. M. U. Conti, "Wind-Tunnel Tests of NIKE Models, Mach No. 1.72;" BRL Memo Rept 425, 2 Apr 46 (AROMA Tech Lib).
  5. AMF Project Status Report, BTL, 15 Jan 46 (ARGMA Tech Lib).
  6. Proj NIKE Status Rept, BTL, 15 Jan 47, Sec 4.1- Radar (ARGMA Tech Lib, R-12081).
  7. R. B. Blackman and S. Darlington: "The NIKE Computer," Rept MM-47-110-27, Part I, 7 Jan 47 (ARGMA Tech Lib File R-14951); and Proj NIKE Status Rept, BTL, 15 Jan 47, Sec 4.3 - Computer (Tech Lib, R-12081).
  8. See Basic Design Concept & Specifications, pp. 17-18
  9. A. L. Antonio; "Summary Report on the Development of the Booster Rocket for the 1946 NIKE - AeroJet Model 2AS-22,000,' Aerojet Rept No. 248, 15 Aug 47 (ARGMA Tech Lib).
  10. R. Tripp and R. B. Young: "Summary Report on the Development of the Rocket Engine for the 1946 NIKE - Aerojet Model X21AL-2600," Aerojet Rept No. 247, 9 Jul 47 (ARMA Tech Lib).
  11. Fred D. Ewing: "Design and Development of the 1946 NIKE;" DAC Rept No. SM-13041, 27 Jun 47, p. 5 (ARGMA Tech Lib).

  12. Ibid., pp. 8 and 35.
  13. lbid., pp. 14 and 83 f.
  14. For later production models, a different numbering system was used; e.g., Model 1249 represented the first tactical version, NIKE I.
  15. Fred D. Ewing: "Report on the Field Test Program of the i946 NIKE DAC Rept No. SM-l3O48, 8 Jul 47, pp. 1-6 (ARGMA Tech Lib).
  16. See 8th round test results, Table 1, App. 5.
  17. DAC Rept SM-13048, op cit., pp. 7 ff; and "Project NIKE Progress Reports for October and November 1946," BTL, 1 Dec 46 (ARGMA Tech Lib R-12158)
  18. "Project NIKE Status Report," BTL, 14 Mar 48, pp.16 ff. (ARGMA Tech Lib).
  19. L.H. Kellogg: "1947 NIKE Missile Trials - Beacon Radar Performance", 19 Dec 47 {ARGMA Tech Lib).
  20. H. Morrison: "No-Signal relay for the NIKE Missile," 30 Jul 47 (ARGMA Tech Lib).
  21. Status Rept, 15 Mar 48, op.cit., pp. 22 ff.

Go to top of Page
Go Back to Home Page