The 6555th

Chapter Two Footnotes

6555th Test Support Squadron
Ten officers and 129 airmen under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John C. Reardon were present for duty in the new squadron on September 5th.

The FALCON was a fighter-launched, supersonic, air-to-air missile with a range of about four miles. Weighing 122 pounds and measuring only 77.8 inches long, the missile carried a small explosive warhead activated with a contact fuse. The FALCON was developed through a series of prototypes (e.g., models "A" through "F"), and FALCON model "C" and "D" missiles were fired against bomber drones at Holloman in 1952. Captain Wilbur R. Lindsey, Jr., one other officer and 13 airmen from the 6556th reported to Holloman in early April 1952 to support the Hughes Aircraft Company with its FALCON. Two of Lindsey's airmen conducted telemetry operations for Hughes in June 1952, and eight other airmen were in training at Hughes' plant in California during the same period.

The RASCAL was a 32-foot-long, air-to-surface guided missile designed for all-weather use in medium and heavy bomber operations against strategic targets. The RASCAL was developed by Bell Aircraft Corporation under an Air Materiel Command contract as a supersonic cruise missile. A 2/3 scale version of the RASCAL called "SHRIKE" was tested at Holloman in 1951 and 1952 to evaluate the aerodynamics and launching characteristics of the RASCAL system. Though there was some thought given to transferring the RASCAL program to AFMTC in 1952, Headquarters ARDC decided to keep the RASCAL at Holloman along with shorter-ranged missile programs.

6556th Guided Missile Squadron and 6555th Test Support Squadron
The 6556th's people were absorbed by the 6555th Guided Missile Squadron. The Test Support Squadron's people were transferred to AFMTC's Air Support Squadron under the 6550th Air Base Group. The Air Support Squadron continued to support the MATADOR and other missile programs.

6556th Guided Missile Squadron
As mentioned earlier, the 6556th would be absorbed by the 6555th Guided Missile Squadron in March 1953, so BOMARC proved to be the limit of the 6556th's ambitions.

1st Pilotless Bomber Squadron
The 1st Pilotless Bomber Squadron was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Giannatti initially, but Lieutenant Colonel Louis O. Carroll assumed command on 19 November 1951. By the end of December 1951, Carroll's squadron consisted of 17 officers and 73 airmen, but tents had to be set up near two of Patrick's barracks in December to shelter 174 additional airmen who reported to the Squadron in mid-January 1952.

69th Pilotless Bomber Squadron
Lieutenant Colonel George T. Walker assumed command of the 69th in January, and 41 officers and 256 airmen were assigned to his squadron by the end of June 1952.

Number 547
Personnel from the 6555th Guided Missile Squadron assembled and disassembled Number 547 several times before the launch to make the most of their training experience. Checks of the controls, guidance and telemetry system were also done repeatedly. Martin representatives stood by as consultants on December 7th and provided the test equipment for the launch. Lift-off and flight were normal, but the missile did not respond properly to guidance signals, and it finally went out of control and fell into the Atlantic 15 minutes and 20 seconds after launch. The flight covered a distance of 105 miles.

"basically trained"
This training prepared both squadrons to receive missile components, assemble them into a complete missile (minus warhead and RATO), perform system functional checks, set the missile on its zero-length launcher, attach the MATADOR's wing, warhead and RATO, insert targeting information, make final checks and launch the missile. Guidance personnel in both squadrons were trained to operate the MSQ-1 radar and control the missile along its flight path to the target. In addition to the training at AFMTC, both squadrons sent officers and airmen to Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado for guidance training, and to Chanute Air Force Illinois for propulsion training.

The decision to develop the MARC was based on the contractor's ability to carry out parallel development of both guidance systems without delaying the delivery of an operational MATADOR weapon system. The MARC was desirable because of its potential as a standardized guidance and control system for pilotless missiles and fighter-bombers.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard W. Maffry
Maffry assumed command on September 4th, when the Squadron's former commander, Lieutenant Colonel John C. Reardon, moved over to take command of the 6555th Test Support Squadron on the same date. Major John A. Evans succeeded Lieutenant Colonel Reardon as Test Support Squadron Commander on 12 May 1952.

fail-safe destruct system
The missile carried a positive destruct system which allowed controllers to destroy the missile on command, but the MATADOR also carried a fail-safe system which destroyed the missile automatically upon interruption of control signals for any period longer than 45 seconds. Following interruption of control signals, the missile continued on course for 15 seconds before executing a left turn. If signals were not restored within the next 30 seconds, the missile destroyed itself automatically. On the other hand, if the missile was flying properly but went into a left turn because of an interruption in the ground signal, the controller in the director aircraft could switch on his radio command system and prevent the missile from destroying itself prematurely.

6555th Guided Missile Wing became a Group
The 6555th Guided Missile Squadron was discontinued on 1 March 1953 as well, but its resources were transferred to the 6555th Guided Missile Squadron. The Group still had 97 officers and 1038 airmen assigned to its units at the end of June 1953. Colonel Albert G. Foote became the Group Commander on 1 March 1953, succeeding Colonel Jack S. DeWitt, who had been the 6555th's Wing Commander since Colonel McNeese's departure for a new assignment on 16 July 1952. Foote was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel Henry B. Sayler on 6 June 1953.

MATADOR school
One of TAC's MATADOR mobile training detachments was attached to the 6555th Guided Missile Squadron in 1954, and it was sent to Orlando Air Force Base in late November 1954 to begin training new MATADOR squadrons.

Captain Edward B. Blount
Captain Edward B. Blount commanded the 6555th Guided Missile Group from 22 June 1954 until the unit was discontinued, whereupon he assumed command of the 6555th Guided Missile Squadron. Lieutenant Colonel Carey assumed command of the Squadron in early December 1954.

11th Tactical Missile Squadron
The 11th had launched its first MATADOR on February 21st, and it launched three more in March, April and May 1955.

The ASTRAL (Assembly Transport and Launch) launcher was designed by the Martin Company as both a transporter and launcher, thereby eliminating the need for two separate pieces of equipment. Built of tubular steel tied together with steel cables, the ASTRAL was lighter, less expensive and easier to operate than the older zero-length launcher. The 6555th tested the ASTRAL in a MATADOR launch on 2 May 1956. The new equipment functioned well and "incurred no incidental damage." Plans called for ASTRAL road tests and launch demonstrations in Europe in the last half of 1956.

first public demonstration
The missile used in the public demonstration had been used in the "ready storage" program, initiated at the Cape in October 1955. Under that program, the missile had been kept under a tarpaulin out of doors and monitored to see how long its systems remained functional. Weekly verification checks were conducted over the next six months, and, despite the highly corrosive environment of the Central Florida coast, the missile flew properly for the public on May 20th.

The MACE B was already in an advanced state of development when it arrived at the Cape. As far back as 1952, Goodyear had been working on the ATRAN system for a 1,000-mile version of the MATADOR planned by Martin. Though the proposed vehicle was never fielded as a MATADOR, it became the MACE B missile, which carried its entire guidance system internally and did not have to rely on ground stations to guide it to the target. To accomplish this, the ATRAN system matched the missile's radarscope presentation of the immediate terrain with a previously obtained radar picture (simulated by radar-photo reconnaissance) and adjusted the missile's control surfaces to keep the missile on course into the target. The value of this technology was proven dramatically during the DESERT STORM campaign of 1991, in which air- and sea-launched cruise missiles played a decisive role in the early hours of the war in the Persian Gulf.

blue suit (all­military) launches
The blue suit launch crews included four officers and 28 airmen from TAC and six airmen from Air Training Command. They were attached to the MACE Operations Division and integrated into launch crews as cadres for their parent commands' MACE B operations and training programs.

two missile teams
Team #1, consisting of three officers and 33 airmen, was divided into a propulsion section and a guidance section. The Propulsion Section was given classroom and shop training in boosters, motors, destructors and fueling systems. The Guidance Section was divided into sub-sections and given training in: 1) target seeker and attitude controls, 2) fire control and 3) receivers. Team #2, composed of three officers and 36 airmen, was responsible for checking out and launching the missiles prepared by Team #1.

In November 1949, the Air Force asked Boeing and the University of Michigan to make a feasibility study of a surface-to-air guided missile to supplement the nation's air defense forces. The contractors' joint study subsequently proposed a BOMARC (Boeing and University of Michigan Aeronautical Research Center) missile system tied to a network of searching and tracking radars. Under the BOMARC concept of operations, the tracking radars passed targeting information to a computer/evaluator system which, in turn, assigned BOMARCs to individual targets and fed the missiles guidance information to intercept their targets. Jet interceptors would also be integrated into the system to allow a joint air defense operation, a "missile only" operation or a "manned interceptor only" operation. The BOMARC's design and development phase was started in December 1950, and contractor compliance tests were underway in 1953. Boeing was awarded the contract for the missile, but sub-contracts went to the University of Michigan (for modifications to the computer/evaluator system), to Westinghouse (for target seekers), to Marquart (for the ramjet engines), and to Aerojet (for the missile's liquid rocket booster).

safety requirements
Unlike the MATADOR's solid propellant RATO system, the BOMARC's liquid rocket motor had to be fueled with white fuming nitric acid and analine-furfuryl alcohol in two separate, potentially dangerous operations. A portable shower was erected at the launch pad, and a decontamination truck and crew stood by throughout both fueling sequences as a mandatory safety measure. A third fueling operation -- involving JP-3 jet fuel -- was similar to MATADOR pumping procedures, except for special precautions required by the presence of the missile's loaded liquid rocket. Like other JP-3 pumping operations, the BOMARC JP-3 fueling sequence was monitored by a Cardox (carbon dioxide) fire truck and crew. The decontamination crew, fire trucks, an ambulance and a doctor remained at the launch pad during all fueling operations.

target drone
The 3215th Drone Squadron from Eglin's Air Proving Ground Center provided the target drones for the BOMARC IM-99A test program. On 5 December 1958, the Squadron was discontinued, but it was succeeded by the 3205th Drone Group, Detachment #1, which continued flying drone targets for BOMARC tests well into 1959. Once the IM-99A portion of the program was completed, drones were no longer required. Detachment #1 departed for Eglin on 8 June 1959.

track launcher
The test vehicle was launched from a rocket sled mounted on a 3,300- foot length of railroad track. As the sled raced down the first 1,500 feet of track, it released the SNARK at approximately 350 miles per hour. Once the missile was airborne, the sled braked itself by means of a scoop, which plunged into a water trough located between the rails. The sled was powered by three 3-DS solid propellant motors rated at 47,000 pounds of thrust apiece.

N-25 research vehicle
The N-25 research vehicles were equipped with landing skids so the vehicles could be used on several flights. The N-25s were launched by rocket sled, and radio-controlled by missile pilots flying in director aircraft.

guidance systems
The SNARK had three guidance systems: 1) an APN-66 radar, 2) an ACN unit, and 3) an inertial terminal guidance system. Following launch, the SNARK was guided to a point in space by its APN-66 Doppler radar system. After a star reference was acquired, navigational control passed to the SNARK's Automatic Celestial Navigation (ACN) unit, which controlled the mid-course portion of the flight by comparing known star coordinates with the missile's pre-programmed flight plan. The inertial guidance system, corrected by stellar information provided by the ACN, guided the missile into the target.

launch two SNARKs
The SNARK B-62 Operations Section assisted with the conditioning and installation of the rocket boosters used on both flights, and it took some satisfaction in knowing that the boosters performed well during both launches.

Model N-69C missiles
Though the "C" model was used for terminal dive testing, it could fly for about two hours before reaching its "dump" point; this gave Northrop a chance to pick up some flight data missed on earlier N-69A and N-69B flights. The first "C" model launched from the Cape was also the first SNARK to be equipped with new solid rockets rated at 130,000 pounds of thrust.

SNARK guidance test flights
A few of the missiles failed to accomplish all of their objectives, and one N-69D had the dubious distinction of flying completely off the Range "without permission." Following its launch on 5 December 1956, the delinquent SNARK failed to respond to every external guidance command sent to it. After disregarding all destruct commands sent to it, the missile finally crash-landed harmlessly in the jungles of Brazil. Apparently, the missile's destruct system had been rendered inoperative due to a power failure; the destruct system on later SNARK missiles was modified to avoid this type of incident, and no other missiles went AWOL (Away Without Official Leave) in later years.

specialized training
A few of the 6555th's officers and airmen had been integrated into the Northrop Field Test Crew, but most of the 80 military personnel assigned to SNARK activities had been relegated to support roles up to that point in the program.

Air Force decided
This decision was based on the likelihood that intercontinental ballistic missiles would render the SNARK obsolete by the early 1960s. Previously, the 556th crew training program was to be completed by June 1960. Subsequently, training had to be completed by the end of December 1959.

crew training
Under an informal agreement between Air Training Command and AFMTC, one officer and five airmen were sent to AFMTC in March 1959 and attached to the 6555th Guided Missiles Squadron to train officers and airmen for SAC's SNARK unit at Presque Isle, Maine. The first graduating class consisted of 8 officers and 72 airmen.

XSM-64 test vehicle
When requirements for the NAVAHO were firmed up in the early 1950s, the XSM-64 missile was expected to weigh about 65,000 pounds and its booster was expected to weigh about 71,700 pounds. Some evidence suggests that the missile and booster eventually grew to 70,000 pounds and 90,000 pounds respectively, but the two 120,000-pound thrust rocket engines were powerful enough to boost the combined weight of the NAVAHO in either case.

landing strip
This $2,000,000 landing field became known as the "Skid Strip." In later years, the Skid Strip was widened to 300 feet, resurfaced and expanded to include a taxiway and a parking apron for transports arriving with missile and spacecraft components. Eventually, the landing area accommodated the heaviest cargo carriers in the Air Force. A small control tower and a modest fire and crash rescue capability complemented the airfield.