MGM-31 Pershing

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Three single-stage Pershing II missiles prepared for launch at McGregor Range (December 1, 1987)

Pershing was a family of solid-fueled two-stage ballistic missiles designed and built by Martin Marietta to replace the PGM-11 Redstone missile as the United States Army's primary nuclear-capable theater-level weapon. Pershing later replaced the U.S. Air Force's MGM-13 Mace cruise missile. The Pershing systems were developed and fielded over 30 years from the first test version in 1960 through final elimination in 1991. The systems were managed by the U.S. Army Missile Command (MICOM) and deployed by the Field Artillery Branch.


Pershing missile (460 mile range) and Redstone missile (201 mile range)

In 1956, George Bunker, the president of the Martin Company, paid a courtesy call on General John Medaris, USA, of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. Medaris noted that it would be advantageous to the Army if there was a missile plant in the vicinity of the Air Force Missile Test Center (present day Cape Canaveral Air Force Station) in Florida. The Martin Company subsequently began construction of their Sand Lake facility in Orlando, Florida, and this was opened in late 1957. Edward Uhl, the co-inventor of the bazooka, was the vice-president and general manager of the new factory.

The U.S. Army began studies in 1956 for a ballistic missile with a range of about 500–750 nautical miles (930–1,390 km; 580–860 mi). Later that year, Secretary of Defense Charles Erwin Wilson issued the "Wilson Memorandum" that removed from the U.S. Army all missiles with a range of 200 miles (320 km) or more.[1] When this memorandum was rescinded by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) in 1958, the ABMA began development of the class of ballistic missile. Initially called the Redstone-S, where the S meant solid propellant, the name was changed to Pershing in honor of General of the Armies John J. Pershing.

Seven companies were selected to develop engineering proposals: Chrysler, the Lockheed Corporation, the Douglas Aircraft Company, the Convair Division of General Dynamics, the Firestone Corp., the Sperry-Rand Company, and the Martin Company.[2]

The Secretary of the Army, Wilber M. Brucker, the former governor of Michigan — was apparently under pressure from his home state to award the contract to a company in Michigan. Chrysler was the only contractor from Michigan, but Medaris persuaded Brucker to leave the decision entirely in the hands of the ABMA. After a selection process by General Medaris and Dr. Arthur Rudolph, the Martin Company (later Martin Marietta after a merger in 1961) was awarded a CPFF (cost-plus-fixed-fee) contract for research, development, and initial production of the Pershing system under the technical supervision and concept control of the government. Martin's quality control manager for the Pershing, Phil Crosby developed the concept of Zero Defects that enhanced the production and reliability of the system.

Pershing I[edit]

MGM-31 Pershing I
Pershing 1 launch (Feb 16, 1966).png
Pershing round 32 launched from Hueco Range, Texas by A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 44th Field Artillery, targeted for White Sands Missile Range on August 20, 1963
Type Surface-to-surface missile
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1960–1986
Used by
Production history
Designer The Martin Company
Designed 1958–1960
Manufacturer The Martin Company
Produced 1960–1969
Number built 754 missiles (including Pershing IA)
Weight 4,655 kilograms (10,263 lb)
Length 10.5 metres (34.4 ft)
Diameter 1.02 metres (3.3 ft)
Blast yield
  • W50 nuclear warhead
  • 60 kilotons of TNT (0.25 PJ)
  • 200 kilotons of TNT (0.84 PJ)
  • 400 kilotons of TNT (1.7 PJ)

  • First stage: Thiokol TX TX-174
  • 115 kN (25,900 lbf) 38.3 s
  • Second stage: Thiokol TX-175
  • 85 kN (19,100 lbf) 39 s
740 kilometres (460 mi)
Boost time 77.3 seconds
Speed Mach 8
Eclipse-Pioneer ST-120 inertial guidance
Jet vanes, air vanes
Accuracy 400 metres (1,310 ft) circular error probable
M474 transporter erector launcher


The first XM14 R&D Pershing I[a] test missile, was launched on February 25, 1960. The first two-stage launch from the tactical transporter erector launcher (TEL) was in January 1962. The first test flights used only the first stage, but by the end of 1962, full range two stage flights had been successful. For training there was an inert Pershing I missile designated XM19. In June 1963, the XM14 and XM19 Pershing missiles were redesignated as XMGM-31A and XMTM-31B, respectively. The production version of the tactical missile was subsequently designated as MGM-31A.


The Pershing made its first public appearance at Fort Benning in May 1960 as part of a display for President Eisenhower.[3] The Pershing later performed as part of the inaugural parade of President Kennedy in 1961. President Kennedy and other dignitaries visited White Sands Missile Range in 1963 to observe test firings of various weapons systems– the Pershing was demonstrated, but not fired.[4]

Initial plans were for ten missile battalions with one at Fort Sill, one in Korea and eight in West Germany; this was eventually reduced to one battalion at Fort Sill and three in West Germany. The 2nd Missile Battalion, 44th Artillery Regiment was activated at Fort Sill as the first tactical Pershing unit. The 56th Artillery Group was activated in Schwäbisch Gmünd, West Germany to become the parent unit for three missile battalions. The 4th Missile Battalion, 41st Artillery was formed in 1963 and deployed to Schwäbisch Gmünd. This was followed by the deployment of the 1st Battalion, 81st Field Artillery to McCully Barracks in Wackernheim. Each missile battalion had four launchers, one per battery.

The 2nd Missile Battalion, 79th Artillery was formed for deployment to South Korea, but was deactivated before equipment was issued.

In 1964, the Secretary of Defense assigned the Pershing weapon system to a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) role after a DoD study showed that the Pershing would be superior to tactical aircraft for the QRA mission. The German Air Force began training at Fort Sill. Each missile battalion was then authorized six launchers.[5] In 1965 this was increased to eight launchers, two per firing battery. By 1965, three U.S. Army battalions and two German Air Force wings were operational in Germany. The 579th Ordnance Company was later moved to Nelson Barracks in Neu-Ulm and tasked with maintenance and logistical general support for the Pershing artillery units.


The Pershing I missile was powered by two Thiokol solid-propellant engines. Since a solid-propellant engine cannot be turned off, selective range was achieved by thrust reversal and case venting. The rocket stages were attached with splice bands and explosive bolts. As directed by the onboard guidance computer, the bolts would explode and eject the splice band. Another squib would open the thrust reversal ports in the forward end of the stage and ignite the propellant in the forward end, causing the engine to reverse direction. During testing, it was found that the second stage would draft behind the warhead and cause it to drift off course, so an explosive charge was added to the side of the engine that would open the case and vent the propellant. The range could be graduated but the maximum was 740 kilometres (400 nmi). The missile was steered by jet vanes in the rocket nozzles and air vanes on the engine case. Guidance was provided by an onboard analog guidance computer and an Eclipse-Pioneer ST-120 (Stable Table-120) inertial navigation system. The warhead could be conventional explosive or a W50 nuclear weapon with three yield options— the Y1 with 60 kiloton yield, Y2 with 200 kiloton yield and Y3 with 400 kiloton yield.

Ground equipment[edit]

The Pershing I firing platoon consisted of four M474 tracked-vehicles– by comparison, Redstone needed twenty vehicles. The transporter erector launcher (TEL) transported the two stages and the guidance section as an assembly and provided the launch platform after the warhead was mated. It utilized a removable erector launcher designed by Unidynamics and manufactured by FMC Corporation The warhead carrier transported the warhead, the missile fins and the azimuth laying set used to position the missile. The programmer test station (PTS) and power station (PS) were mounted on one carrier.

The PTS featured rapid missile checkout and countdowns, with complete computer control, and automatic self test and malfunction isolation. Additionally, the PTS would perform tests that simulated airborne missile operation, programed the trajectory of the missile and controlled the firing sequence. Plug-in micromodules increased maintainability and allowed the PTS operator to perform 80% of all repairs at the firing position. A turbine driven Power Station, mounted behind the PTS, provided the primary electrical and pneumatic power and conditioned air for the missile and ground support equipment at the firing position.

The AN/TRC-80 Radio Terminal Set was produced by Collins Radio Company specifically for the Pershing system. The "Track 80" used an inflatable dish antenna to provide line-of-sight or tropospheric-scatter voice and teleprinter communications between missile firing units and higher headquarters. The erector-launcher, PTS, PS and RTS could be removed from the carriers and air-transported in fourteen CH-47 Chinook loads.[6]


The missile had to be positioned or laid in on a pre-surveyed site with a system of two theodolites and a target card. Directional control was passed from one theodolite to the one next to the missile. The missile was then oriented to north by an operator using a horizontal laying theodolite aimed at a window in the guidance section of the missile. Using a control box, the ST-120 Inertial navigation system in the guidance section was rotated until it was aligned; at this point the missile "knew" which direction was north.

Satellite launcher[edit]

Model of the Pegasus satellite launcher system

In 1961, Martin proposed a satellite launch system based on the Pershing. Named Pegasus, it would have had a lighter, simplified guidance section and a short third stage booster.[7] A 60-pound (27 kg) payload could be boosted to a 210 miles (340 km) circular orbit, or to an elliptical orbit with a 700 miles (1,130 km) apogee. Pegasus would have used the Pershing erector-launcher and could be emplaced in any open area. Martin seems to have been targeting the nascent European space program, but this program was never developed.


In 1965, the Army contracted with the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) of Johns Hopkins University to develop and implement a test and evaluation program.[8] APL provided technical support to the Pershing Operational Test Unit (POTU), identified problem areas and improved the performance and survivability of the Pershing systems.[9]

Pershing IA[edit]

MGM-31A Pershing IA
Launch of Pershing IA (26 Oct 1976).png
Pershing 1A launched from Eastern Range, Cape Canaveral, Launch Complex 16 by C Battery, 3rd Battalion, 84th Field Artillery on October 26, 1976
Type Surface-to-surface missile
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1969–1991
Used by
Production history
Designer The Martin Company
Designed 1965–1969
Manufacturer The Martin Company
Produced 1969
Number built 754 missiles (including Pershing I)
Weight 4,655 kilograms (10,263 lb)
Length 10.5 metres (34.4 ft)
Diameter 1.02 metres (3.3 ft)
Blast yield
  • W50 nuclear warhead

740 kilometres (460 mi)
Boost time 77.3 seconds
Speed Mach 8
Eclipse-Pioneer ST-120 Inertial navigation system
Jet vanes, air vanes
Accuracy 400 metres (1,310 ft) circular error probable
M790 erector launcher
Transport M757 5-ton tractor


In 1964, a series of operational tests and follow-on tests were performed to determine the reliability of the Pershing I. The Secretary of Defense then requested that the Army define the modifications required to make Pershing suitable for the quick reaction alert (QRA) role. The Pershing IA development program was approved in 1965, and the original Pershing was renamed to Pershing I. Martin Marietta received the Pershing IA production contract in mid-1967. Project SWAP replaced all the Pershing equipment in Germany by mid-1970 and the first units quickly achieved QRA status. In 1965, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara directed that the U.S. Air Force's MGM-13 Mace missile would be replaced by the Pershing 1A.[10]

Pershing IA was a quick reaction alert system and so had faster vehicles, launch times and newer electronics.[11] The total number of launchers was increased from eight to 36 per battalion. It was deployed from May 1969 and by 1970 almost all the Pershing I systems had been upgraded to Pershing IA under Project SWAP. Production of the Pershing IA missile ended in 1975 and reopened in 1977 to replace missiles expended in training.

Pershing IA was further improved in 1971 with the Pershing Missile and Power Station Development Program. The analog guidance computer and the control computer in the missile were replaced by a single digital guidance and control computer. The main distributor in the missile that routed power and signals was replaced with a new version. The missile used a rotary inverter to convert DC to AC that was replaced by a solid-state static inverter. The power station was improved for accessibility and maintenance.[12] Further improvements in 1976 allowed the firing of a platoon's three missiles in quick succession and from any site without the need for surveying.[13] The Automatic Reference System (ARS) used an optical laser link and a north-seeking gyro with encode to eliminate the need for pre-selected and surveyed points. The Sequential Launch Adapter connected the PTS to three missiles, eliminating the need to cable and uncable each launcher.

A total of 754 Pershing I and Pershing IA missiles were built with 180 deployed in Europe.[14]


The battalions in Europe were reorganized under new tables of organization and equipment (TOE); an infantry battalion was authorized and formed to provide additional security for the system; and the 56th Artillery Group was reorganized and redesignated the 56th Field Artillery Brigade. Due to the nature of the weapon system, officer positions were increased by one grade: batteries were commanded by a major instead of a captain; battalions were commanded by a colonel; and the brigade was commanded by a brigadier general.[15]:2-4

Pershing lA was deployed with three U.S. battalions in Europe and two German Air Force wings. Each battalion or wing had 36 mobile launchers. Due to legal issues of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany prohibiting (West) Germany to own (or directly control) nuclear weapons the direct command and control of the nuclear warheads remained in the hands of the U.S. army. During peacetime operations, a portion of the Pershing IA assets was deployed on the QRA mission. The remainder would be conducting field training or were maintained in kasernes awaiting alert. The system was designed to be highly mobile, permitting its dispersal to clandestine sites in times of alert or war and was deployed at distances greater than 100 km behind the forward edge of battle area or political border. Owing to its mobility and setback, Pershing was considered one of the most survivable theater nuclear weapons ever deployed in Europe.

The primary mission in the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe scheduled plan took one of two forms: peacetime or an increased state of readiness called period of tension. Different levels or techniques of tasking were used for these mission forms. The peacetime quick reaction alert role required that for each battalion or wing, one firing battery or a portion thereof would be combat alert status (CAS) on a permanent hard site, covering assigned targets.

In peacetime the four batteries of each battalion rotated through four states or conditions of alert readiness, the highest being that of the CAS battery. The purpose of this rotation was to assume the CAS status, to share the burden of CAS responsibility, to provide time for field tactical training and equipment maintenance, and to give ample leave and pass time to personnel without adverse impact on operational requirements.

During periods of increased tension, the firing batteries of each battalion were deployed to previously unused field tactical sites. At these sites, they assumed responsibility for coverage of all assigned targets. During transition from the peacetime to full combat status, coverage was maintained on the highest priority targets that were assigned to the peacetime CAS batteries.

Once all firing batteries were at their field sites, the firing elements of the battalions were deployed by platoons, which were then separated from each other geographically to reduce vulnerability. The platoons then moved to new firing positions on a random schedule to increase survivability.


The M790 erector launcher (EL) was a modified low-boy flat-bed trailer towed by a Ford M757 5-ton tractor.[16] The erection booms used a 3,000 psi pneumatic over hydraulic system that could erect the 5 ton missile from horizontal to vertical in nine seconds. Due to the overall missile length and for security, the warhead was not mated during travel. It was stored in a carrier and mated using a hand-pumped davit after the launcher was emplaced.

The PTS and PS were mounted on a Ford M656 truck.[17] Launch activation was performed from a remote fire box that could be deployed locally or mounted in the battery control central (BCC). One PTS controlled three launchers— when one launch count was complete, ten large cables were unplugged from the PTS and the PTS was moved up and connected to the next launcher.

Further improvements[edit]

A repackaging effort of the missile and power station was completed in 1974 to provide easier access to missile components, reduce maintenance, and improve reliability. A new digital guidance and control computer combined the functions of the analog control computer and the analog guidance computer into one package. The mean corrective maintenance time was decreased from 8.7 hours to a requirement of 3.8 hours. The reliability increased from 32 hours mean time between failures to a requirement of 65 hours. In 1976, the sequential launch adapter (SLA) and the automatic reference system (ARS) were introduced. The SLA was an automatic switching device mounted in a 10 ton trailer that allowed the PTS to remain connected to all three launchers. This allowed all three launchers to remain "hot" and greatly decreasing the time between launches. The ARS eliminated the theodolites previously used to lay and orient the missile. It included a north seeking gyro and a laser link to the ST-120 in the missile. Once the ARS was set up, a cold missile could be oriented in a much shorter time.


DoD policies of the time restricted females from many positions, including Field Artillery. The first female mechanical repairer (MOS 46N, Ordnance Branch) graduated from the Pershing course at Redstone Arsenal in 1974.[18] The first female enlisted Pershing missile crewmembers (MOS 15E, Field Artillery) graduated in 1978,[19] as did the first female Field Artillery officer.[20]

Pershing II[edit]

Pershing II
Pershing II - 4th test launch.jpeg
Pershing II test flight, February 1983
Type Surface-to-surface guided missile
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1983–1991
Used by United States Army 108 launchers
Production history
Designer Martin Marietta
Designed 1973–1981
Manufacturer Martin Marietta
Produced 1981–1989
Number built 276 missiles
Variants Pershing IB (not deployed)
Weight 7,490 kilograms (16,513 lb)
Length 10.6 metres (34.8 ft)
Diameter 1.02 metres (3.3 ft)
Blast yield
  • W85 nuclear warhead: 5 kilotons of TNT (21 TJ) to 80 kilotons of TNT (330 TJ)
  • W86 earth penetrator (canceled)

Engine Hercules, two-stage, solid propellant
1,770 kilometres (1,100 mi)
Speed Mach 8+
vector control system (steerable nozzle), air fins
Accuracy 30 metres (100 ft) circular error probable (restrictions apply)
M1003 erector launcher
  • M1001 MAN tractor in Germany
  • M983 HEMTT in the U.S.


In 1973, a task force was established to begin development of a follow-on system. The 400 kt warhead was greatly over-powered for the QRA mission, and a smaller warhead required greater accuracy. The contract went to Martin Marietta in 1975 and the first development launches began in 1977. Pershing II was to use the new W85 warhead with a five to 50 kt variable yield or an earth-penetrator W86 warhead.[b] The warhead was to be packaged in a maneuverable reentry vehicle (MARV) with active radar guidance, and it would be launched with the Pershing I rocket engines. In 1975, the U.S.A. turned down a request from Israel to purchase the new Pershing II.[21]

The Soviet Union began deployment of the RSD-10 Pioneer (SS-20) in 1976. Since the initial version of the SS-20 had a range of 2,700 miles (4,300 km) and two warheads, the Pershing II requirement was changed to increase the range to 900 miles (1,400 km). It would have had the range to reach into the eastern Ukraine, Belarussia, or Lithuania, thus the NATO Double-Track Decision was made to deploy both the medium range Pershing and the longer range, but slower BGM-109G Gryphon Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) in order to strike potential targets farther to the east.

Both the hard target capability and W86 nuclear warhead were canceled in 1980, and all production Pershing II missiles carried the W85.[22] A concept warhead using kinetic energy penetrators for counter-airfield operations never materialized.[23][24]


Because of SALT II agreements, no new launchers could be built, therefore the new missile had to fit onto upgraded Pershing IA launchers. The functions of the vehicle mounted PTS needed for the older systems were consolidated into the Ground Integrated Electronics Unit (GIEU) on the side of the launcher. The warhead and radar sections were carried as an assembly on a pallet that rotated to mate with the main missile.

The prime mover for the launcher was the M983 HEMTT for units in the U.S. and a MAN tractor for units in Germany. The tractors had a crane used for missile assembly and a generator to provide power for the launcher and missile. Since the new guidance system was self-orienting, the launcher could be emplaced on any surveyed site and launched within minutes.


The new rocket motors were built by Hercules. To minimize airframe weight, the rocket cases were spun from Kevlar with aluminum attachment rings.[25]

Reentry vehicle[edit]

The reentry vehicle (RV) was structurally and functionally divided into three sections: the radar section (RS), the warhead section (WHS), and the guidance and control/adapter (G&C/A) section. Quick access connectors made the all three of the RV sections replaceable at the launching site.

The G&CC contained an inertial guidance system that could guide the missile on-target in a purely ballistic mode as a back-up. The primary guidance system was a Goodyear Aerospace active radar guidance system. Using radar maps of the target area, the Pershing II had a reported accuracy of about 30 metres (100 ft) circular error probable.[26]

The radar section consisted of the radar unit with the antenna enclosed in an ablative radome. The function of the radar unit was to transmit radio waves to the target area, to receive altitude and video information in return, and to send the detected video and altitude data to the digital correlator unit (DCU) located in the G&C section.

The warhead section contained the W85 warhead. Provisions were made within the warhead section for mounting the warhead cables, the rate gyro unit, and the cables that passed from the G&C section to the RS.

The G&C section consisted of two separate portions, the G&C and the adapter, which were connected by a manufactured splice. At the forward end of the G&C there was a quick access splice for attachment to the warhead section. At the aft end, the adapter was grooved to accept the V-band that spliced the propulsion section to the G&C section. The RV separation system consisted of a linear shaped charge ring assembly bolted to the G&C section so that separation occurred just forward of the G&C manufactured splice. A protective collar on the outer surface of the adapter, mounted over the location of the linear shaped charge, provided personnel protection during G&C handling operations.

Within the G&C was the Singer-Kearfott inertial navigation system, the G&C computer, the digital correlator unit and actuators to drive the air fins.

Radar area correlator[edit]

The highly accurate terminal guidance technique used by the Pershing II RV was radar area correlation, using a Goodyear Aerospace active radar guidance system.[27] This technique compared live radar video return to prestored reference scenes of the target area and determined RV position errors with respect to its trajectory and target location. These position errors were used to update the inertial guidance system, which in turn sent commands to the vane control system to guide the RV to the target.

At a predetermined altitude, the radar unit was activated to provide altitude update data and begin scanning the target area. The analog radar video return was digitized into two-bit pixels by the correlator unit and was formatted into a 128 by 128 array. The target reference scene data, loaded prior to launch via the ground and missile data links, were also encoded as two-bit pixels and placed in reference memory formatted in a 256 by 256 array. The reference scene resolution necessary to correspond to the decreasing altitude of the RV was effected by placing four reference data arrays in memory, each representing a given altitude band. This correlation process was performed several times during each of four altitude bands and continued to update the inertial guidance system until just before the impact.[28]

If for some reason the correlator system failed to operate or if the correlation data quality was determined to be faulty, the inertial guidance system continued to operate and guided the RV to the target area with inertial accuracy only.

Goodyear also developed the Reference Scene Generation Facility— a truck mounted shelter containing the equipment required to program the missile targeting controlled by a DEC PDP-11/70.[29] Radar maps of target areas were stored on disk, then specific targeting data was transferred to a tape cartridge. During countdown operations, the cartridge was plugged into the launcher control panel to program the missile with targeting data.


Prior to launch, the missile was referenced in azimuth by its gyrocompass inertial platform. After launch, the missile followed an inertially guided trajectory until RV separation. Attitude and guidance commands during powered flight (except for roll attitude) were executed via the swivel nozzles in the two propulsion sections. Roll control was provided by two movable air vanes on the first stage during first stage flight and by the RV air vanes during second stage flight. The first stage also had two fixed air vanes for stability during first stage powered flight.

The midcourse phase of the trajectory was initiated at RV separation and continued until the terminal phase began. At the beginning of the midcourse phase, the RV was pitched down to orient it for reentry and to reduce its radar cross section. Midcourse attitude was then controlled by the RV vane control system during atmospheric exit and reentry, and by a reaction control system during exoatmospheric flight.

At a predetermined altitude above the target, the terminal phase would begin. A velocity control maneuver (pull up, pull down) was executed under inertial guidance control to slow down the RV and achieve the proper impact velocity. The radar correlator system was activated and the radar scanned the target area. Radar return data was compared to prestored reference data and the resulting position fix information was used to update the inertial guidance system and generate RV steering commands. The RV was then maneuvered to the target by the RV vane control system.


By 1975, NATO had lost its strategic nuclear lead over the Soviet Union, and with the introduction of the SS-20, had even fallen behind. NATO's answer was not long in coming and on December 12, 1979, the military commander of NATO decided to deploy 572 new nuclear missiles in Western Europe: 108 Pershing II Missiles and 464 Ground Launched Cruise Missiles. Of the cruise missiles, 160 were to be placed in England, 96 in West Germany, 112 in Italy (on Sicily), 48 in the Netherlands, and 48 in Belgium. All 108 Pershing II missiles were to be emplaced in West Germany replacing the current Pershing 1A missiles.

The second significant aspect of the NATO decision was the readiness to trade with the Soviet Union for the reduction or total elimination of these missiles against similar reductions or elimination of the Soviet SS-20 ballistic missiles.

NATO's condition for not carrying out its plans for missile deployment would be the willingness of the U.S.S.R. to halt the deployment of the mobile SS-20 missiles that could be aimed at Western Europe and to remove the SS-20s that had already been deployed. In 1979, when the decision to deploy new NATO nuclear missiles was made, the Warsaw Pact had 14 SS-20 launch sites selected, with one operational. According to estimates by NATO, at the beginning of 1986 the Warsaw Pact had deployed 279 SS-20 mobile missile launchers with a total of 837 nuclear warheads based in the eastern U.S.S.R.

The first of these were deployed in West Germany beginning in late November 1983. The deployment in was completed in late 1985 with a total of 108 launchers. Initial Operational Status (IOS) was achieved on December 15, 1983 when A Battery, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment rotated on to operational status with the Pershing IIs at its site in Mutlangen. By 1986 all three missile battalions were deployed with 108 Martin Marietta Pershing II missiles, stationed in West Germany at Neu-Ulm, Mutlangen and Neckarsulm.

On January 11, 1985, three soldiers of C Battery, 3rd Battalion, 84th Field Artillery were killed in an explosion at Camp Redleg, the CAS site near Heilbronn. The explosion occurred while removing a missile stage from the storage container during an assembly operation. An investigation revealed that the Kevlar rocket bottle had accumulated a triboelectric charge in the cold dry weather; as the motor was removed from the container the electrical charge began to flow and created a hot spot that ignited the propellant.[30][31][32] A moratorium on missile movement was enacted through late 1986 when new grounding and handling procedures were put into place.

The deployment of Pershing missiles was a cause of significant protests in Europe.[33]


In 1982, the 55th Maintenance Battalion was activated as part of the 56th Field Artillery Brigade. The 579th Ordnance Company was deactivated and reformed as Headquarters Company and D Company. The three service batteries in the field artillery battalions were deactivated and reformed as forward service companies under the 55th.[34]

In January 1986, there was a major reorganization; the 56th Field Artillery Brigade was redesignated as the 56th Field Artillery Command and was authorized a major general as a commander. 1st Battalion, 81st Field Artillery was inactivated and reformed as 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery in Neu-Ulm, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery was inactivated and reformed as 2nd Battalion, 9th Field Artillery in Schwäbisch-Gmünd and 3rd Battalion, 84th Field Artillery was inactivated and reformed as 4th Battalion, 9th Field Artillery in Heilbronn. With 3rd Battalion, 9th Field Artillery at Fort Sill, all the firing units were then under the 9th Field Artillery Regiment. The 55th Maintenance Battalion was redesignated as 55th Support Battalion and E Company, 55th Maintenance Battalion was deactivated and reformed as the 193rd Aviation Company.


Pershing 1B during an Engineering Development shoot, January 1986

Pershing IB was a single stage, reduced range version of Pershing II with the same range as the Pershing IA. The Pershing II launcher was designed so that the cradle could be easily repositioned to handle the shorter missile airframe. The intent was to replace the German Air Force's Pershing IA systems with Pershing IB, since SALT II limited the range of German-owned missiles. The German government agreed to destroy its Pershing IA systems when the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. signed the INF Treaty, hence the Pershing IB was never deployed.

Pershing II Reduced Range (RR) was a follow-on concept that would have modified the launchers to hold two single-stage missiles.[35]

Pershing III was a proposal for a four-stage 25,000 pounds (11,000 kg) version that would have replaced the LGM-118 Peacekeeper.[36]


 United States: United States Army

Germany West Germany: German Air Force


Pershing rocket motor being destroyed by static burn, September 1988.

The Pershing systems were scrapped following the ratification of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty on May 27, 1988.[37] The missiles were withdrawn in October 1988; the last of the missiles were destroyed by the static burn of their rockets and subsequently crushed in May 1991 at the Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant near Caddo Lake, Texas. Although not covered by the treaty, West Germany agreed unilaterally to the removal of the Pershing IA missiles from its inventory in 1991, and the missiles were destroyed in the United States.


The INF treaty only covered the destruction of launchers and rocket motors. The W-85 warheads used in the Pershing II missiles were removed, modified, and reused in B61 gravity bombs.

The Orbital Sciences Storm I target missile used air vanes from the Pershing 1A.[38] The Pershing II guidance section was re-used in the Coleman Aerospace Hera and the Orbital Sciences Storm II target missiles.

The INF Treaty allowed for inert Pershing II missiles to be retained for display purposes. One is now on display in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., alongside a Soviet SS-20 missile. Another is at the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow, Russia, also with an SS-20.[37][c] A number of inert Pershing I and Pershing IA missiles are displayed in the U.S. and Germany.

Scrap material from the Pershing II and SS-20 missiles has been used in several projects. Zurab Tsereteli created a sculpture called Good Defeats Evil, a 39-foot (12 m), 40-short-ton (36,000 kg) monumental bronze statue of Saint George fighting the dragon of nuclear war, with the dragon being made from sections of the Pershing II and SS-20 missiles. The sculpture was donated to the United Nations by the Soviet Union in 1990, and it is located on the grounds of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

In 1991, Leonard Cheshire's World Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief sold badges of the group logo made of scrap material. Parker created a series of pens with a Memorial Fund badge made of scrap missile material, with half the proceeds going to the fund.[39]


In 2000, a number of U.S. Army Pershing missile veterans decided to seek out their fellow veterans and to start acquiring information and artifacts on the Pershing systems. In 2004, the Pershing Professionals Association was incorporated to meet the long-term goals — to preserve, interpret and encourage interest in the history of the Pershing missile systems and the soldiers who served, and to make such information accessible to present and future generations to foster a deeper appreciation of the role that Pershing played in world history.[40]

Veterans of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, who had carried out the security for the Pershing systems formed a subchapter known as the Pershing Tower Rats. The two German Air Force missile wings in Germany also formed veterans groups.[41][42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The original system was simply named Pershing, but was renamed Pershing I in 1965 when the Pershing Ia was introduced. Military documentation is inconsistent in the use of Arabic and Roman numerals and in capitalization, resulting in the use of I, 1, 1a, 1A, 2, II and the like.
  2. ^ No official military documentation uses the MGM-31 series designation for the Pershing II.
  3. ^ The treaty allowed for a total of fifteen Pershing II and GLCM missiles for display. Seven Pershing IIs were retained; last known locations are:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Charlie's Hurricane". Time. June 6, 1956. (subscription required)
  2. ^ Harwood, William B (1993). Raise Heaven and Earth. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-74998-6. 
  3. ^ Pershing: The Man, the Missile, the Mission. The Martin Company. 1960. WSS 009. 
  4. ^ "JFK's Visit to White Sands". White Sands Missile Range. United States Army. 
  5. ^ McKenney, Janice E. (2007). "Pershing Missile". Organizational History of Field Artillery 1775 - 2003. Washington D.C.: Center of Military History. pp. 230–234. CMH 60-16-1. 
  6. ^ "Field Artillery's Newest Missile". Artillery Trends (U.S. Army Field Artillery and Missile School). January 1963. 
  7. ^ "Pershing Rockets for Europe". Interavia. July 1961. 
  8. ^ Mentzer, Jr., William R. (1998). "Test and Evaluation of Land-Mobile Missile Systems". Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest (Johns Hopkins University). 
  9. ^ Lyman, Donald R. (May 1977). "POTU". Field Artillery Journal (United States Army Field Artillery School): 15–17. 
  10. ^ Parsch, Andreas (November 17, 2002). "Martin TM-76/MGM-13/CGM-13 Mace". Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles. 
  11. ^ Moore, Jr., Alan L. "A New Look of Pershing". Field Artillery (United States Army Field Artillery School). 
  12. ^ "Instructional Department Notes: Pershing". The Field Artilleryman (United States Army Field Artillery School): 76–78. August 1971. 
  13. ^ "Pershing System Modular Improvement". Field Artillery Journal (United States Army Field Artillery School): 30. May 1976. 
  14. ^ Pershing IA System Description. Martin Marietta Aerospace. 1974. OR 13,149. 
  15. ^ Pershing II Firing Battery. United States Army. March 1985. FM 6-11. 
  16. ^ Equipment Data Sheets for TACOM Combat & Tactical Equipment. United States Army. June 1985. pp. 4–286 – 4–287. TM 43-0001-31. 
  17. ^ Equipment Data Sheets for TACOM Combat & Tactical Equipment. United States Army. June 1985. pp. 4–202 – 4–203. TM 43-0001-31. 
  18. ^ "The Women of Redstone Arsenal". United States Army. Archived from the original on July 11, 2010. 
  19. ^ Busse, Charlane (July 1978). "First Women Join Pershing Training". Field Artillery Journal (United States Army Field Artillery School): 40. 
  20. ^ "The Journal Interviews: 1LT Elizabeth A. Tourville". Field Artillery Journal (United States Army Field Artillery School): 40–43. November 1978. Archived from the original on June 16, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Missiles for Peace". Time. September 29, 1975. (subscription required (help)). 
  22. ^ Pershing II Weapon System Description. United States Army. June 1986. TM 9-1425-386-10-1. 
  23. ^ Eskow, Dennis, ed. (January 1984). "Raining Fire". Popular Mechanics (Hearst): 119. 
  24. ^ Harsch, Joseph (June 22, 1983). "U.S. Has Other Defense Options". Beaver County Times: A6. 
  25. ^ Jones III, Lauris T. (Winter 1986). "The Pershing Rocket Motor". The Ordnance Magazine. 
  26. ^ Parsch, Andreas (2002). "Martin Marietta M14/MGM-31 Pershing". Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles. 
  27. ^ "Nuclear Files: Library: Media Gallery: Still Images: At Work in the Fields of the Bomb by Robert Del Tredici". 
  28. ^ Paine, Christopher (October 1980). "Pershing II: The Army's Strategic Weapon". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: 25–31. 
  29. ^ "Target Reference for Pershing II". Field Artillery Journal (United States Army Field Artillery School): 36. January 1984. 
  30. ^ "The Accident in Heilbronn". Field Artillery Journal (United States Army Field Artillery School): 33. July 1985. 
  31. ^ Knaur, James A. (August 1986). "Technical Investigation of 11 January 1985: Pershing II Motor Fire". U.S. Army Missile Command (Defense Technical Information Center). 
  32. ^ Davenas, Alain; Rat, Roger (July–August 2002). "Sensitivity of Solid Rocket Motors to Electrostatic Discharge: History and Futures". Journal of Propulsion and Power 18 (4). 
  33. ^ "Hundreds of Thousands Protest Missiles in Europe: Urge U.S. to Match Soviet Halt". Los Angeles Times. April 8, 1985. 
  34. ^ "55th Maintenance Battalion". Donau (U.S. Army). July 16, 1982. 
  35. ^ "Pershing II RR". United States Army. 
  36. ^ Arkin, William M. (June 1983). "Pershing II and U.S. Nuclear Strategy". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: 12. 
  37. ^ a b "The Pershing Weapon System and Its Elimination". United States Army. 
  38. ^ Thongchua, Nat; Kaczmarek, Michael (November 7, 1994). "Theater Missile Defense Targets for Interceptor Test and Evaluation". 1944 AIAA Missile Sciences Conference. 
  39. ^ "Charity: Writing Off The Weapons". Time. August 28, 1991. (subscription required (help)). 
  40. ^ "Pershing Professionals Association". 
  41. ^ "Traditionsgemeinschaft Flugkörpergeschwader 1" [Community Tradition of Missile Wing 1] (in German). 
  42. ^ "Traditionsgemeinschaft Flugkörpergeschwader 2" [Community Tradition of Missile Wing 2] (in German).