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Nike Hercules

Nike back with fins.jpg

The Nike Hercules was a surface-to-air missile (SAM) developed by the U.S. Army from the earlier 1950's Nike Ajax. It was first deployed in 1958 to counter the threat from massed Soviet supersonic bomber fleets and later for dual use as an anti-ballistic missile system. Though the threat from bombers diminished with the development of the ICBM, the Hercules remained in limited U.S. Army service until the late 1970's and somewhat longer in allied countries. The replacement was the Patriot (SAM) which was a quantum jump in technology and is still in service. 

Secondary use of the Hercules was as a surface-to-surface (SSM) missile however, it was not too practical in that role for a number of reasons. 



The Nike Hercules was a 41 foot long, two stage, solid fuel rocket capable of Mach 4 speed and 100,000 altitude.

The missile was usually armed with a 20 kiloton W-31 nuclear warhead in its later service life. A conventional warhead was also available and was the only warhead allowed for use by allied countries. 

The launch control was originally made with vacuum tube technology that was updated later with solid state electronics when the technology became available. The missile was "command guidance" which in this case meant radar acquiring/tracking the target and calculating the intercept with the then analog (later digital) computer guiding the missile via a radio control system. Note the control surfaces on the 2nd stage for guidance. With the technology of the day guidance was not that precise. Hence a nuclear warhead was used which only needs to detonate in the vicinity of a bomber or bomber formation to be effective. Though the technology and accuracy improved significantly during the time the Nike was in service, the large warhead was apparently still retained. 

There were over 130 fixed bases in the United States at one time, defending military installations, strategic industries, and cities. There were additional locations mostly in Europe. The bases would typically have several missile launchers in a below ground silo (box) which would open and elevate the missile to fire. Additional missiles were stored underground next to the launcher making it reloadable. The bases were separated into two parts, the command site and the launch site typically as two totally separate installations. The launch site was strictly the missile silos while the command site would have the barracks in addition to all of the radar, fire control and everything else necessary to operate a small independent "mini-base". 


A defended area could have multiple bases. The wisdom of firing multiple 20 kiloton warheads from multiple bases to defend one target becomes questionable when considering the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were similar sized at 15 and 21 kilotons respectively. Upwards of 100,000 perished in each of those cities from just one similar sized nuclear detonation though the detonation was a from a much lower altitude.  

Fortunately, the Nike was never used. 

Pictures of similar Nike Hercules

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Denton Site for Nike present day_edited.jpg
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