Air Force Bases

McGregor Guided Missile Range, Texas

Because of the distance to the Red Canyon Range and the longer range of the Nike Hercules being developed, the Army sought a suitable range in the vicinity of the newly designated Army Antiaircraft and Artillery and Guided Missile Center at Fort Bliss, Texas. The Red Canyon Range continued to be used by active Nike Ajax battalions for annual service practice until 1959.

The site chosen covered a 20- by 45-mile area situated to the southeast and parallel to U.S. Highway 54. Land acquisition was completed after a long period of negotiations with area ranchers, and on July 13, 1956, McGregor Range Headquarters and Service Battery were activated; facility construction began in September. Facilities included headquarters, barracks, missile assembly and storage facilities, and support structures. A range control building was constructed on Davis Dome, a volcanic rock formation over-looking the southern Tularosa basin.

The 495th Guided Missile Battalion (SAM) fired the first Nike Ajax missiles on the range in the spring of 1957. Throughout the next decade, packages completing training at Fort Bliss took their turn conducting live-fire exercises at the range. These units returned to McGregor for their annual service practice. In the early 196Os, these exercises were known as Short Notice Annual Practices (SNAP).

Launch site "one" consisted of an actual Nike Ajax magazine, elevator, and launchers. Additional sites consisted of simple concrete pads to support a missile launcher. Range modifications were made to support Nike Hercules, Hawk, Patriot, and other missiles such as the European-built Roland. Other countries have contracted to use the range for training. Japan conducted the last firing of a Nike Hercules in December 1992 at McGregor Range before retiring its Nike inventory. Just northwest of the McGregor Base Camp was a Pershing Missile Launch Complex. With the elimination of Pershings required by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, the site was abandoned.

Besides preparing Nike Ajax battalions for deployment, the 1st Guided Missile Brigade also supported research, development, testing, and evaluation of surface-to- surface missiles as well as training the units that would field them. In the early 195Os, these units deployed with Corporal and Honest John missiles.

The Corporal missile was fired from the Orogrande Range, located between McGregor Range to the southeast and White Sands Proving Ground to the northwest. Both training and annual service firings of the missile were conducted at this location until the mid-1950s when surface-to-surface missile activities were transferred to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Fort Bliss also supported the deployment of the antiballistic missile (ABM) system. Training silos remain that were built to support handling practice of Sprint and Spartan missiles.

Red Canyon Guided Missile Range

Located approximately 165 miles north of El Paso near Carrizoza, New Mexico, Red Canyon range was established at the north end of the White Sands Proving Ground in October 1953 to launch Nike Ajax missiles under combat conditions. Only three permanent structures were erected to support the operation. In 1958, soldiers built a chapel from scrap wood and missile pieces.

With the opening of McGregor Range, initial training was switched to the new facility while Red Canyon continued to serve as the annual practice facility for Nike Ajax crews posted around the nation. The site also served as a launch point for the surface-to- surface Honest John missile. The last annual service practices were conducted in 1959, and by 1961 the temporary camp was but a memory.

Click here for information on missile research at Fort Bliss.