The 6555th, Chapter II, Section 2

MATADOR and the Era of Winged Missiles

MATADOR and MACE Operations 1955-1963

In March 1955, the Glenn L. Martin Company phased out its testing crew, and all remaining MATADOR launches at Cape Canaveral were accomplished by military organizations. Those launches continued to pursue missile improvements as much as training requirements, and TAC's newest MATADOR unit-the 11th Tactical Missile Squadron-helped the 6555th Guided Missile Squadron test refinements in the AN/APW-11A beacon during launches required by the 11th's training program. Nine MATADORs were also launched by the 6555th during the first six months of 1955 to test a redeveloped version of the SHANICLE guidance system. The 11th launched 10 training missiles in June and July 1955, and the 6555th launched two MATADORs in September and a third missile in November 1955 to test the weapon's reliability on alert. 18

The 6555th changed commanders several times over the next four years as the MATADOR mission continued. Major W. F. Heisler assumed command of the 6555th Guided Missile Squadron in May 1955, and he was succeeded by Major R. W. Cullen the following February. Major Cullen was promoted to lieutenant colonel during his tenure as Commander, which continued through early August 1958. Lieutenant Colonel John A. Simmons, Jr. took command subsequently and continued in that position until the Squadron became the 6555th Guided Missiles Group (Test and Evaluation) on 15 August 1959. Colonel Harry J. Halberstadt became the new commander following the Squadron's redesignation on August 15th, but he was succeeded by Colonel Henry H. Eichel on 21 December 1959, when the 6555th Group was reassigned from AFMTC to the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division (without any change in station) and redesignated the 6555th Test Wing (Development). 19


The 6555th concluded MATADOR research and development testing at Cape Canaveral in 1956 as training launches continued. In the first six months of the year, 18 MATADORs were launched from the Cape. Twelve of them were launched to provide tactical training and to collect data on the missile's reliability and accuracy with the SHANICLE guidance system. Five of the launches were conducted mainly for training purposes, and one MATADOR was fired to evaluate the performance of a new missile launcher, the ASTRAL. A 19th missile was also launched from Patrick Air Force Base in the first public demonstration of the weapon system on May 20th, Armed Forces Day. Twelve more MATADORs were launched in the last half of 1956, including the 17th Tactical Missile Squadron's first training launch on August 29th. The 17th launched five more MATADORs by the end of September, and the 6555th Guided Missile Squadron concluded MATADOR R&D testing at the Cape with six MATADOR (SHANICLE) launches between September 20th and the end of November 1956. By the end of the year, one MSQ-1 guidance set was turned in to Base Supply for shipment back to the manufacturer (i.e., the Reeves Instrument Corporation), and SHANICLE base station equipment was turned over "in place" for use by the 17th Tactical Missile Squadron. On 12 February 1957, the TM-61 (MATADOR) Division was deleted from the Air Force Missile Test Center, and procedures were established which allowed AFMTC's Directorate of Range Operations to deal directly with TAC's newest MATADOR unit, the 588th Tactical Missile Group. For all practical purposes, the 6555th's involvement in the MATADOR program ceased at that time. 20


20 May 1956


20 May 1956

As a point of interest, MATADOR operations at the Cape continued under TAC for several more years. After several postponements in the training schedule, the 17th Tactical Missile Squadron resumed launch operations on 10 April 1957, and it completed its training program by launching four missiles by the middle of May 1957. The 17th was replaced by the 588th Tactical Missile Group, and the 588th conducted nine MATADOR launches between the end of August and 14 November 1957. (In an effort to improve the realism of this training, the 588th's people bivouacked in tents about three miles north of the MATADOR launch area.) Four more MATADORs were launched in March 1958, and the 588th concluded its training with six MATADOR launches in November and December 1958. The 588th was replaced by the 4504th Missile Training Wing in 1959. The 4504th launched 14 missiles between January 7th and the middle of June, and it launched 11 MATADORs between August 25th and 9 December 1959. Tactical Air Command's training units continued to launch MATADORs well into 1961. The last MATADOR was launched from Cape Canaveral on 11 May 1961. 21

Well before the MATADOR program ended, the Glenn L. Martin Company introduced the MACE B to Cape Canaveral as a follow-on "cruise" missile program. The MACE B was an improved version of the MATADOR, and its outstanding feature was the ATRAN (Automatic Terrain Recognition and Navigation) system under development by the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation. The missile's lineage was apparent from its swept-wing, turbojet design: it was equipped with an Allison J33-A-41 engine, and, in its field configuration, it was launched from a "hard site" with the assistance of a RATO solid rocket booster weighing 2950 pounds. The missile was 44.3 feet long, 22.9 feet wing-tip to wing-tip, and its fuselage was 54 inches in diameter. The first MACE B (TM-76B) missile was launched from the Cape on 29 October 1959, and it met virtually all of its test objectives. The second MACE B launch, on December 4th, also demonstrated the value of the ATRAN system and the missile's ground support equipment. 22

As mentioned earlier, the 6555th Guided Missile Squadron went through some dramatic organizational changes in the last half of 1959, including the unit's redesignation as the 6555th Guided Missile Group (Test and Evaluation) on August 15th and the Group's reassignment and elevation to Test Wing status under the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division (AFBMD) on 21 December 1959. Despite the 6555th's reorientation to ballistic missiles, the Wing's MACE Operations Division (under the direction of Major Abbott L. Taylor) proceeded to develop a "blue suit" (all military) launch capability. Major Taylor's division had been in existence "in one form or another" since 1 July 1958, and the Division's key personnel completed factory training at Martin's Baltimore plant and participated in MACE B launches at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico before assisting Martin with the MACE B launches at Cape Canaveral in October and December 1959. 23

Two MACE Bs were launched from a "soft site" on Complex 21 in February and March 1960, and an integrated military/contractor crew checked out and launched three more MACE Bs from the soft site by the end of June. The MACE B's hard site supported its first launch on 11 July 1960, and the military/contractor team launched three more missiles in September and October before the first two blue suit (all­military) launches were conducted on 15 November and 16 December 1960. Following four more launches in March, April and June, the MACE B's final Performance Demonstration launch was completed on 21 June 1961. The 6555th's MACE Operations Division participated in all of those launches, and it completed its training supervision of TAC personnel assigned to MACE B operations at the Cape. The Division was phased out subsequently, and the MACE Weapons Branch (composed of five senior civil service engineers and 14 airmen) was established on 10 July 1961 to provide instrumentation support and engineering evaluation for 16 MACE Bs launched by TAC's 4504th Missile Training Wing. The MACE Weapons Branch was dissolved at the conclusion of the MACE Category III Systems Operational Testing and Evaluation (SOTE) program in April 1962. Its civil servants were transferred to the MINUTEMAN and ATLAS ballistic missile programs, and its airmen moved into positions with the ATLAS, TITAN and BLUE SCOUT programs. Tactical Air Command sponsored eight more MACE B missile launches at Cape Canaveral between 31 October 1962 and 18 June 1963. 24


11 February 1960

[Photo]MACE HARDSITE PADS 21 AND 22 - January 1960

[Photo]FLAME DEFLECTORS, PADS 21 AND 22 - January 1960

[Photo]1ST MACE HARDSITE LAUNCH FROM PAD 22 - 11 July 1960

[Photo]PRELAUNCH CHECKOUT OF MACE ON PAD 21 - 15 November 1960

[Photo]MACE LAUNCH FROM PAD 21 - 15 November 1960

The 6555th: Missile and Space Launches Through 1970
by Mark C. Cleary, Chief Historian
45 Space Wing Office of History
1201 Minuteman Ave, Patrick AFB, FL 32925