Air Force Bases

Nike Zeus

Nike Zeus, the final Nike missile, was aimed at intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), Zeus was the third missile in the Nike family, and brought Nike development into the ICBM era. Named for the ruler of the Greek Gods, the Zeus missile measured 63 feet 3 inches, had a diameter of 60 inches, and weighed 40,000 pounds at launch. The tandem booster, designed by Thiokol, had a thrust of 450,000 pounds -- then the highest ever attained through a single nozzle. The Zeus had a range of more than 250 miles. The Nike Zeus system also included the Zeus Acquisition Radar (ZAR), a significant improvement over the Nike Hercules HIPAR system. Shaped like a pyramid, the ZAR featured a Luneberg lens receiver aerial weighing about 1,000 tons. The first successful intercept of an ICBM by Zeus was in 1962 at Kwajalein in the Marianas Islands

Dispite its technological advancements, the Department of Defense terminated Zeus development in 1963. The Zeus system, which cost an estimated $15 billion, suffered from several technical flaws, including an inability to distinguisd enemy warheads from chaff, reflectors, and other types of decoys.57 Still, the Army continued to develop an anti-ICBM weapon system -- referred to as "Nike-X" -- that was largely based on the technological advances of the Zeus system. Nike-X featured phase-array radars, computer advances, and a missile tolerant of skin temperatures three times those of the Zeus. In September 1967, the Department of Defense announced the deployment of the Sentinel antiballistic missile system, major elements drawn from Nike-X development. In March 1969, the Army deployed the Safeguard program, which was designed to defend Minuteman missiles, and which also was based on the Nike-X system.