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MIM-14 Nike-Hercules

Nike-Hercules Missile
Type Surface-to-air missile
Production history
Manufacturer Western Electric, Bell Laboratories, Douglas Aircraft Company
Weight 10,710 pounds (4,860 kg)
Length 41 feet (12 m) overall
26 feet 10 inches (8.18 m) second stage
Diameter booster 31.5 inches (800 mm)
second stage 21 inches (530 mm)

Warhead initially W7 (2.5 or 28 kt)[1][verification needed] later W31 nuclear 2 kt (M-97) or 20 kt (M-22)[2] or T-45 HE warhead weighing 1,106 pounds (502 kg) and containing 600 pounds (270 kg) of HBX-6 M17 blast-fragmentation

Engine Booster: Hercules M42 solid-fueled rocket cluster (4x M5E1 Nike boosters) 978 kN (220000 lb)
Sustainer: Thiokol M30 solid-fueled rocket 44.4 kN (10000 lb)
Wingspan 11 feet 6 inches (3.51 m) booster
6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) second stage
90 miles (140 km)
Flight ceiling 150,000 feet (46,000 m)
Speed >Mach 3.65 (ca. 2750 mph or 4,470 km/h)

The Nike Hercules (initially designated SAM-A-25, and later MIM-14), was a solid fuel propelled two-stage surface-to-air missile, used by U.S. and NATO armed forces for high- and medium-altitude air defense. It could also be employed in a surface-to-surface role, and demonstrated its ability to hit other short-range missiles.

Hercules was developed as the successor to the earlier MIM-3 Nike Ajax, with the ability to attack high-flying supersonic targets. It was initially deployed starting in 1959 in new bases, but eventually took over some existing Ajax bases as well. Hercules remained in service far longer than Ajax, with the last units in Europe only being deactivated in 1988.

Development and deployment

The Nike-Hercules system, a follow-up to the Nike Ajax missile, was developed during the Cold War to destroy enemy bombers and enemy bomber formations, as well as serve as an anti-ballistic missile system. Western Electric, Bell Laboratories, and Douglas Aircraft Company were chief contractors for the system. Nuclear-armed Nike Hercules missiles were deployed in the United States, Greece, Italy, Korea and Turkey, and with Belgian, Dutch, and U.S. forces in West Germany.[3] Conventionally armed Nike Hercules missiles also served in the United States, Germany, Denmark, Japan, Norway, and Taiwan.[4] The first deployments in Europe began in 1959[5] and the last nuclear-armed Nike Hercules missiles in Europe were deactivated in 1988.[6] The Nike-Hercules missile systems sold to Japan (Nike J) were subsequently fitted with upgraded internal guidance systems, the original vacuum tube systems being replaced with transistorized ones.


The Nike Hercules could carry either a nuclear warhead or a conventional high explosive warhead (T-45 fragmentation type). Initially the nuclear-armed version carried the W-7 Mod 2E nuclear warhead, with yields of 2.5 or 28 kt. Beginning in FY 1961 the older warheads were replaced by W-31 Mod 0 warheads, with yields of 2 kt (Y1) or 30 kt (Y2).[7][verification needed] The last versions carried the W31 Mod 2 warhead, with yields of 2 or 20 kt.[2] The missile was 41 feet 6 inches (12.65 m) long with a wingspan of 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m). 145 missile batteries were deployed during the cold war. The missile had a range of about 77 miles (124 km).


The Nike Hercules was a guided missile controlled from a groundstation.[8][9] The guidance and control area (Integrated Fire Control, IFC) was located about 1 mile (1.6 km) from the area from where the missile was launched (Launching Area, LA). The IFC had a low power acquisition radar (LOPAR) to detect (enemy) aircraft. After detecting and identifying a hostile aircraft with the aid of an Identification friend or foe system, this aircraft was followed or tracked in elevation, azimuth and range by a Target Tracking Radar (TTR). An analog (later digital) computer computed continually a point in the sky where the missile and target should meet (intercept point) after a potential launch of the missile. After the missile was actually launched by the Battery Control Officer (BCO), a Missile Tracking Radar (MTR) tracked the missile and the computer constantly updated the intercept point even if the hostile aircraft performed evasive actions. Steering corrections were sent to the missile by the MTR. When the missile neared the intercept point a command signal was sent to the missile to explode. To measure the range to the target under jamming conditions the IFC was also equipped with a Target Ranging Radar (TRR). Some IFC’s were equipped with a high power acquisition radar (HIPAR) to augment the initial detecting range of hostile aircraft. For command and control the sites were linked with a digital communication system (initial the AN/MSQ-18 system).[10]

On the IFC the system was operated by a crew of about nine operators under command of the BCO. Locking on to the target had to be done manually by varying the range, elevation and azimuth of the TTR. For this the LOPAR provided the rough initial azimuth and range. After a "lock-on", the system could track the missile and target automatically, but a manual tracking mode was available in case an automatic track could not be established. The firing of the missile was done manually by the BCO based on the rules of engagement. The crew on the LA, also under command of the BCO, was responsible for preparing and erecting the missile.


Soviet development of ICBMs decreased the value of the Nike (aircraft) air defense system.[8] Beginning around 1965, the number of Nike batteries was reduced. Thule air defense was reduced during 1965 and SAC air base defense during 1966, reducing the number of batteries to 112. Budgetary cuts reduced that number to 87 in 1968, and 82 in 1969. Nike Hercules was included in SALT I discussions as an ABM. Following the treaty signed during 1972.

All CONUS Nike-Hercules batteries, with the exception of the ones in Florida and Alaska, were deactivated by April 1974. The remaining units were deactivated during the spring of 1979. Dismantling of the sites in Florida — Alpha Battery in Everglades National Park, Bravo Battery in Key Largo, Charlie Battery in Carol City and Delta Battery, located on Krome Avenue on the outskirts of Miami — started in June 1979 and was completed by early autumn of that year. The buildings that once housed Delta Battery became the original structures used for the Krome Avenue Detention Facility, a federal facility used primarily to hold illegal aliens awaiting immigration hearings. In Anchorage, Alaska, Site Point (A Battery) was converted into a ski chalet for Kincaid Park. Site Summit (B Battery) still sits above Eagle River, its IFC buildings and clamshell towers easily visible when driving towards Anchorage. Site Bay (C Battery), across Cook Inlet from the others, has been mostly demolished, with only burned out shells of the batteries remaining, as well as a few storage bunkers. The large airstrip remains, and is often used by locals for flight instruction and practice.

The U.S. Army continued to use Nike-Hercules as a front-line air defense weapon in Europe until 1983, when Patriot missile batteries were deployed. NATO units from West Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Greece and Turkey continued to use the Nike-Hercules for high-altitude air defense until the late 1980s. With the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the units were deactivated. Last missile was launched in the Sardinian range of Capo San Lorenzo in Italy on November 24, 2006.[11]


The Patriot missile replaced the Nike-Hercules Missile in the high- and medium-altitude air defense roles. Its advantage over the Nike-Hercules system was its mobility and reliability. While a Nike-Hercules site could take days to be established, Patriot sites can be established in hours. Patriot also uses a more advanced phased-array radar system and has better missile target tracking. Over the years, the non-solid state guidance system as well as the complex fire control systems' radars suffered from diminishing manufacturing source (DMS) issues. In part because of less parts supportability, Western European (Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force (4 ATAF) and Second Allied Tactical Air Force (2 ATAF) sites essentially became fixed sites and were no longer considered capable of a mobile role. During the last years of their deployment in Europe the issue at hand was more about maintaining security of the nuclear capable missiles, rather than mobility. The DoD invested considerably in upgrading the security of the storage areas of the launcher sections, ultimately installing significant towers that were capable of watching over all three sections within the "exclusion area."

Accidental launches

  • Naha, Okinawa June or July 1959, a similar incident occurred concerning a MIM-14 Nike-Hercules anti-aircraft missile on Okinawa which according to some witnesses, was complete with a nuclear warhead, and was accidentally fired from the Nike site 8 battery at Naha Air Base.[13] While the missile was undergoing continuity testing of the firing circuit, known as a squib test, stray voltage caused a short circuit in a faulty cable that was lying in a puddle and allowed the missile's rocket engines to ignite with the launcher still in a horizontal position.[13] The Nike missile left the launcher and smashed through a fence and down into a beach area skipping the warhead out across the water "like a stone."[13] The rocket's exhaust blast killed two Army technicians and injured one.[13]


 Republic of Korea
 United States


See also


External links

  • Nike Hercules at
  • Nike Historical Society
  • Nike Hercules at Encyclopedia Astronautica
  • The last operational North American unit

Template:USA missiles

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