Air Force Bases

Nike - 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 66,000 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 tracking 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 motor 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 rider of 1.2-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.

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 the succeeding portions of this chapter.