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Theater Nuclear Forces Overview

Early Navy Programs

The Navy was, of course, also interested in missiles, and was deeply involved with the American adaptation of the V- 1, the JB-2, or as the Navy referred to it, the Loon. Even before this activity, in July 1943, the Navy designated the Navy Aircraft Factory at Philadelphia to handle a guided missile project code named Gorgon. In this effort, the Navy developed a bewildering number of missiles, some rocket-powered (Gorgon IIA, IIIA, IIIC), some turbojet-powered (Gorgon IIB and IIIB), some pulsejet-powered (Gorgon IIC and Pollux), and one ramjet-powered (Gorgon IV).

At first, the Gorgon IIC (also known as JUN-1, CTV-3, KDN-l) received the most emphasis after the Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) initiated the ship-to-shore, pulsejet-powered device in May 1945. By the end of January 1946, the Navy planned to use the missile in combat from escort carriers and landing craft supported by a production rate rising from 200 a month in December 1945 to 500 a month by April 1946. Except for its canard configuration and guidance, Gorgon IIC resembled the V-1, with its 14-inch pulsejet mounted above an 18-foot fuselage and straight wing which spanned l l feet. After a catapult launch got the 1,688- to 1,984-pound missile airborne, it flew about 400 to 450 mph under radio control approximately 60 to 90 miles to its target. The first successful flight occurred in September 1946. In the late 1940s, the Navy tested 35 to 100 of these missiles.

Also during the 1940s, Martin built another surface-to-surface missile, the Gorgon IV (also known as the KUM-1). The company delivered eight of the conventionally configured and ramjet-powered missiles. It first successfully flew after an air launch in November 1947.

The last vehicle in the Gorgon program was named Pollux. It differed in two ways from the Gorgon IIC. First, the builders mounted the pulsejet underneath its 28-foot fuselage. Second, the missile's wings (spanning 10 feet) were swept back at a 35 degree angle. The 2,350-pound missile first flew in October 1948. But two months after its third and last free flight in December 1950, BuAer canceled-the entire Gorgon project.

A number of technological developments in the 1950s helped push the cruise missile aside. The most important was a smaller and more powerful thermonuclear weapon. Another development was in naval aviation. The evolution of aircraft carriers, with such innovations as slanted deck, steam catapult, and nuclear propulsion, allowed the operation of heavier and higher performance jet- powered aircraft off carrier decks. The Navy also developed the nuclear-powered submarine and the Polaris ballistic missile.


On 1 December 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower assigned the highest national priority to the development of the Thor and Jupiter intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), placing them on an equal footing with the ICBM development program. The decision to build IRBMs was based on several factors. First, the highly influential Killian Committee had recommended that a 1,500-mile IRBM be developed concurrently with the Atlas ICBM. Second, intelligence reports indicated that the Soviet Union had made significant advances in the IRBM field, a situation that posed a serious threat to America's Western European allies and the Strategic Air Command's foreign bases. Finally, the IRBM's less restrictive performance requirements meant the missile could be developed and placed in operation more quickly than the larger, more complex ICBM. On 26 November 1956 The Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum to the Armed Forces Policy Council fixing the missile development roles of the three Armed Services. The Air Force was given operational jurisdiction over long-range missiles; the Army was made responsible for missiles up to 200 miles and for "point defense;" and the Navy was given control of ship-based missiles. These new roles were announced on 28 Nov. And on 8 December 1956 The Secretary of Defense approved the Navy solid propellant ballistic missile program which authorized the Navy to cancel all participation in the liquid-propelled JUPITER IRBM program. The Navy substituted its POLARIS IRBM for the previously approved JUPITER solid propellant motor program.

In January 1959, however, the Strategic Air Command had recommended terminating the IRBM program after the deployment of four Thor squadrons in England and two Jupiter squadrons in Italy. SAC questioned the need for IRBMs, given their limited strategic value and high vulnerability, and wanted the funding diverted to ICBM development.

IRBM negotiations continued in spite of SAC's protests due to several military and political considerations. First, European-based IRBMs, despite their drawbacks, posed a serious threat to the Soviet Union. Furthermore, American-made IRBMs represented the only visible presence of Western missile strength on the European continent. Finally, the United States' dogged determination to deploy IRBMs was viewed as clearly demonstrating a commitment against communist aggression in Western Europe.

SAC made steady progress on these deployments, but significant advances in the ICBM program largely overshadowed the achievement. By late 1962, the United States was completing deployment of its first-generation ICBMs and work was well advanced on the second-generation Titan II and Minuteman missiles. These new developments coupled with the high vulnerability and slow reaction time of Thor and Jupiter, hastened the IRBM's obsolescence.

Sources and Resources

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