Air Force Bases

Nike - Program Control and Policy Guidance

From the date of inception of the NIKE Project to August 1951, the program was directed, coordinated, and supervised by the Rocket Branch of the Office, Chief of Ordnance. On or about 16 August 1951, the responsibility for conduct of the NIKE program was transferred from the Rocket Branch, OCO, to Redstone Arsenal, the latter then becoming the sole source of instruction to the contractor. In general, the responsibilities transferred to Redstone Arsenal covered the monitoring, coordinating, and conducting of the technical aspects of the project. The Rocket Branch, OCO, retained responsibility for general direction and for rendering decisions in such matters as (1) policy, scope, and objectives of the project, and (2) original approach and major changes in the design, performance, and operation of the missile. In February 1953, Redstone Arsenal assumed the additional responsibility of maintaining close technical liaison with other Government field installations engaged in development projects related to the NIKE System.

Basic program guidance was published in the form of Ordnance Technical Committee Meeting Items.

The R&D phase of the program was guided by carefully planned programs and schedules, which were reviewed once or twice a year in joint planning conferences. Ordnance representatives exercised continuous supervision over project developments to assure that a realistic outlook toward eventual tactical requirements was maintained, that cooperation of existing Government research and test facilities was secured, and that such facilities were used to the maximum practical extent.

Early in the program, a basic philosophy of procedure was adopted to insure the timely accomplishment of the goal of proving the command type of antiaircraft guided missile weapon as a practical system. The R&D phase was designed to lead in due course to a convincing field system test of a complete physical array of equipment. Although it was to be fully operative and reasonably approximate the desired performance characteristics of the ultimate tactical version, it did not necessarily have to possess all the practical features which would be demanded of combat-serviceable tactical articles. Consequently, it was agreed that it would not matter if the test system hardware were so intricate or experimental as to require maintenance by specialists and operation by engineers and technicians rather than soldiers. Prototype or model construction techniques could be used; quantity production aspects could be ignored. However, it was decided that the system design should be based on proven devices, methods, and techniques, rather than unproven or radically new ones, in order to expedite the project. Furthermore, it was decided to measure everything that was necessary in order to monitor the desired performance, even if it meant the acquisition of special instruments or the design and construction of new ones.

The benefits derived from these policies and procedures were manifold. In numerous instances, instrumentation and photographic records revealed unsuspected phenomena or disclosed reasons for missile misbehavior which could not have been otherwise foreseen. Of particular significance was the field of supersonic missile flight. Here much new information had to be gleaned from numerous test firings which were arranged to yield data covering not only those areas which would corroborate wind-tunnel tests, but also those which would bridge previous gaps of knowledge of lift, drag, and control characteristics. Many other lessons concerning missile stability, launching, boosting, tracking, and guidance detonation had to be learned in the course of actual experiments in flight.