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To Defend and Deter
Nike Missile
Time Magazine Archive     Winged Victory     Monday, Apr. 06, 1953

Most of the guided missiles officially mentioned so far by the armed services (e.g., the Air Force's Matador) have been obsolete or unsuccessful models. Last week the Army broke the precedent and talked guardedly about its Nike, a missile that really works.

The Nike (named after the Greek goddess of victory) is a ground-to-air rocket designed to blow the highest-flying bombers into junk. It is a slim, dart-shaped object which is launched from the ground by a "booster" that drops off after the missile has attained enough speed to continue under its own rocket power. Ground radar watches the enemy bomber and steer the Nike toward it by electronic signals.

Army Ordnance gave few details about the Nike, but for months its missilemen have been smiling over its recent tests. One rumor is that at least two out of three Nikes get the flying targets.

A movie of this operation has put the fear of missiles into bomber pilots. The Nikes shoot up like projectiles, much faster than sound, veering slightly from side to side and matching each evasive tactic of the drone plane far overhead. The act ends in a flash of flame, a cloud of smoke and a rain of chewed-up debris.

The Nikes have disadvantages too. Packed with electronics and requiring more electronics on the ground, they are certainly expensive. They are said to be hard to maintain for long periods in tiptop flying condition. Their limited radius of action makes them more like antiaircraft guns than interceptor airplanes. So the Nikes cannot defend whole countries, only specially valuable places of moderate size. Moreover, they may have their troubles. Good counter-radar measures by enemy bombers could give the Nikes more trouble than they have ever had in peacetime tests.

While doing their defending duty, the Nikes will not be desirable neighbors. The boosters that bounce them into the air are big enough to do damage when they fall to the ground, and so are the Nikes themselves. But Army Ordnance can point out that this rain of angular metal would be better than the flash and blast of enemy atom bombs.

Monday, Jan. 30, 1956

Nike. In the antiaircraft division, the Army has the well-publicized Nike, a liquid-fuel rocket launched by a solid-fuel booster and steered toward invading bombers by radio. The Nike dates back to the Keller era and is not the last word, but the Army believes that it will hit any attacking bomber sent over in the near future. Admittedly the Nike is a point defense weapon with only moderate lateral range. But the Army has so many Nike batteries at strategic points that their ranges already overlap.

Nation               Ready to Fire               Friday, Apr. 20, 1962

The U.S. moved full speed ahead on preparations for resuming its nuclear tests in the vast and silent stretches of the Pacific.

The big buildup for Operation Dominic combines 12,000 men, 100 planes and 40 ships into Joint Task Force 8, which will conduct the tests.

Each day last week a dozen or so lumbering Military Air Transport planes took off from Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii and headed south for British-controlled Christmas Island, the curving strip of sand and coral that will be the headquarters of Operation Dominic.

Freighters out of Pearl Harbor anchored off the tip of Christmas Island, transferred cargo of awkward monitoring gear to shallow draft lighters for the trip ashore.

In forgotten corners of the Pacific, engineers and scientists put the finishing touches on some of the 15 new weather stations that will study and forecast how wind currents might carry radioactive fallout.

Another web of 16 monitoring stations will record the effects of the blasts; one radiation monitoring station clings to the lip of a 10,000-ft volcanic crater on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Christmas Island is in the center of an imaginary rectangle 600 nautical miles wide and 800 miles long that will be closed to ships and airliners for the duration of the tests. Last week the U.S. added a 120-mile by 240-mile rectangle to the Christmas reservation. The new area containing no islands or atolls, will probably be used for underwater explosions. Some 1,200 miles to the northwest is the second test center of Johnston Island, where the U.S. will probably conduct high-altitude shots.

The basic aim of the U.S. test series is to gather the data necessary to maintain the nation's nuclear lead over the USSR, a lead that was threatened by the progress made by the Russians in their tests last fall. The Russians' series of some 50 shots included superblasts up to 58 megatons. In contrast, the U.S. will detonate only about 35 explosions, none of which is expected to be more powerfull than 15 megatons.