Oleg Zabluda's blog
Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Soviet analog of Nike seems to be S-200 Angara/Vega/Dubna (SA-5 Gammon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-200_Angara/Vega/Dubna), which was phasing out starting in the 1980s but passed on to the successor states before the process was completed. It is still deployed, and Ukrainians used it on 4 October 2001 to shot down a Russian Tu-154 airliner en route from Tel Aviv, Israel to Novosibirsk, Russia, killing all 78 people on board.


Project Nike was a U.S. Army project, proposed in May 1945 by Bell Laboratories, to develop a line-of-sight anti-aircraft missile system. The project delivered the United States' first operational anti-aircraft missile system, the Nike Ajax, in 1953.  It was two stage missile, using a solid fuel booster stage and a liquid fueled (IRFNA/UDMH) second stage. The missile could reach a maximum speed of 1,000 mph (1,600 km/h), an altitude of 70,000 ft (21 km) and had a range of 25 miles (40 km). 

During the early-to-mid 1960s the Nike Ajax batteries were upgraded to the Nike Hercules system. The new missiles had greater range, accuracy, destructive power, and could intercept ballistic missiles. The Hercules had a range of about 100 miles (160 km), a top speed in excess of 3,000 mph (4,800 km/h) and a maximum altitude of around 100,000 ft (30 km). It had solid fuel boost and sustainer rocket motors. The boost phase was four of the Nike Ajax boosters strapped together. In the electronics, some vacuum tubes were replaced with more reliable solid-state components.
The missile also had an optional nuclear warhead to improve the probability of a kill. The W-31 warhead had four variants offering 2, 10, 20 and 30 kiloton yields. The 20 KT version was used in the Hercules system. At sites in the USA the missile almost exclusively carried a nuclear warhead. Sites in foreign nations typically had a mix of high explosive and nuclear warheads. The fire control of the Nike system was also improved with the Hercules and included a surface-to-surface mode which was successfully tested in Alaska. The mode change was accomplished by changing a single plug on the warhead from the "Safe Plug" to "Surface to Air" or "Surface to Surface". The Nike Hercules was deployed starting in June 1958.

Development continued, producing Improved Nike Hercules and then Nike Zeus A and B. The Zeus was aimed at intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Zeus, with a new 400,000 lbf (1.78 MN) thrust solid-fuel booster, was first test launched during August 1959 and demonstrated a top speed of 8,000 mph (12,875 km/h). 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 Luneburg lens receiver aerial weighing about 1,000 tons. The first successful intercept of an ICBM by Zeus was in 1962, at Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. 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 LIM-49A Spartan missile system, its major elements drawn from Nike X development. In March 1969. the Army started the Safeguard ABM program, which was designed to defend Minuteman ICBMs, and which was also based on the Nike-X system. It became operational in 1975, but was shut down after just three months.

Soviet development of ICBMs decreased the value of the Nike (aircraft) air defense system. Some small-scale work to use Nike Zeus as an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) was carried out from 1962 until the project was canceled in favor of the Thor based Program 437 system during 1966. In the end, neither development would enter service. However, the Nike Zeus system did demonstrate a hit to kill capability against ballistic missiles during the early 1960s. Nike Hercules was included in SALT I discussions as an ABM. Following the treaty signed during 1972, and further budget reduction, almost all Nike sites in the continental United States were deactivated by April, 1974. Some units remained active until the later part of that decade in a coastal air defense role.

Nike missiles remained deployed around strategically important areas within the continental United States until 1974. The Alaskan sites were deactivated in 1978 and Florida sites stood down during the following year. Although the missile left the U.S. inventory, other nations maintained the missiles in their inventories into the early 1990s and sent their soldiers to the United States to conduct live-fire exercises at Fort Bliss, Texas. Last missile was launched in Italy in 2006.

The best preserved Nike installation is site SF88L located in the Marin Headlands just west of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. The site is a museum, and contains the missile bunkers, and control area, as well as period uniforms and vehicles that would have operated at the site. The site has been preserved in the condition it was in at the time it was decommissioned in 1974. 


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