Air Force Bases

Nike Feasibility Study

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 Amy on 14 May 1945, followed by a formal report entitled "AAGM Report" 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 fusing function as well, since the accuracy of the system was sufficient to pin point the burst with great accuracy relative to the target.

After surveying the state of the art 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."

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 had to be organized, and basic policies and procedures had to be established to assure top level control and coordination of the overall program.