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Technical Background

The first version of Nike missile system entered design/system test about 1950. Working backward, most of the technologies used had to be selected about 1948. And to be selected for use, the technology (where ever possible) should be reasonably reliable and manufacturable.

Some of the technologies selected for use in the Nike missile system in the late 1940s are obsolete "today" (early 2000s). Some of the technologies are so obsolete as to be unknown to many young people "today".

The following chart is a list of technological differences between the

- Nike design world of the late 1940s
- and the world of today (early 2000s)
- about 55 years (2 human generations) later.

Item Late 1940s early 2000s
Upscale Home Television 12 inch black&white CRT
- 12 channels - antenna only
- about 75 pounds
- mean time to failure - 6 months
- many adjustments
- frequent adjustments
48 inch color plasma
- 132 channels - antenna, cable, satellite
- about 75 pounds
- mean time to failure - years
- few adjustments
- has remote :-))
Digital Computers 1st stored program computer
- Manchester, England
- memory, 40 instructions
- weighed about 1 ton
- power about 10,000 watts
- speed - "fast"
- mean time to failure - 1 day
laptop computers
- everywhere
- memory, 20 million instructions
- weight 5 pounds
- power about 30 watts
- speed about 100,000 times faster
- mean time to failure - years
(also electronic switches)
Vacuum tubes ("Valves")
- 3 inches long, 1 inch diameter
- power - 4 watts to operate
- switch 250 volts
- switch 10 million times/second
- mean time to failure - 10,000 hours
- too small to see
- power - microwatts
- switch 2 volts
- switch 10,000 million times/second
- 100 million years? life of universe?
"Delivery" of warheads Big propeller (250 mi/hr) aircraft
- jets were "experimental"
(except for the Germans)
- long range rockets were "dreams"
(except for the Germans)
Intercontinental jet travel is ordinary
"I was in Tokyo yesterday" - so?
Intercontinental missiles are "old"
People have walked on the moon
(a generation ago)
- "space shuttle" is too weak
Nuclear Warheads Nike Ajax (1940s)
- not available - too heavy
- (a ton)
Nike Hercules (1950s)
- 24 inches diameter, 1000 pounds
1970s 6 inch diameter, 75 pounds
- now ??
Missile Warhead Accuracy German V-2 (WWII)
250 mile range
- proposed, 1/2 mile
- observed, 10 miles
U.S. & Soviet, 1980s,
6,000 mile range
- claimed about 100 meters

The above is a very brief, limited summary of technological changes in the past 50 years since the Nike Ajax was designed and deployed. You can clearly see that in many areas, the changes were profound, revolutionary. Even so, the Nike system is still functional against aircraft

- although you and I would probably prefer a current weapon which is lighter, required fewer people to operate, has fewer critical field adjustments daily, can be a great deal smarter, ...
- say maybe a Patriot missile.

As an example of size and smart, the Nike analog computer filled four refrigerator size cabinets, weighed at least a ton, and took more than 1000 watts to operate. The computing power in your GPS or cell phone could easily run 4 Nike sites, and play a wicked game of chess on the side. The increased accuracy of the Patriot permits smaller warheads and hence smaller missiles. Smaller missiles mean easier lighter launchers, ...