GTR-18 Smokey Sam

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GTR-18s ready to launch Philippines 1984.JPEG
GTR-18 "Smokey Sams" on launch rails
Type SAM simulator rocket
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1980s-present
Used by United States military
Production history
Designer Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD)
Designed early 1980s
Length 15 inches (380 mm)
Diameter 2 inches (51 mm)

Wingspan 6 inches (150 mm)
Propellant solid fuel
Flight ceiling 1,800 feet (550 m)

The GTR-18A, commonly known as the Smokey Sam, is a small unguided rocket developed by Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) in China Lake, California as a threat simulator for use during military exercises. Widely used in training, the Smokey Sam remains in operational service with the United States military.

Design and development[edit]

The GTR-18 was conceived in the late 1970s by Robert A. McLellan, a Weapons Range Scientist working with Exercise Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base. He first searched for a commercially available system that would perform as he envisioned. It quickly became apparent that no commercial product would perform adequately, so the development of the GTR-18 was undertaken by the Naval Weapons Center (NWC) during the early 1980s, with the intent of developing Mr. McLellan's idea of a simple and inexpensive rocket for visually simulating the launch of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) during training exercises.[1]

Constructed from phenolic paper and styrofoam, the Smokey Sam is designed for minimal cost and, in the event of accidentally striking low-flying aircraft, to cause minimal damage.[1]

Operational history[edit]

A GTR-18 is launched at the Crow Valley Range Complex, Philippines, 1984.

The complete launch system, known as the Smokey Sam Simulator, includes single- and four-rail launching pads, an AN/VPQ-1 radar set, and the GTR-18A rockets themselves, making up the SMU-124/E system as a whole.[1]

When launched, the GTR-18's rocket motor produces a distinctive white plume, providing a realistic simulation of the launch of a surface-to-air missile.[2] While the ordinary GTR-18A has a simple, model rocket type motor, an improved 'Dual Thrust Smokey Sam' tested in the early 2000s featured a modified rocket motor, providing a 1.5 second boost period, followed by a lower-thrust sustainer burn with burnout occurring at 7.1 seconds after launch.[3]

Receiving the altered designation DGTR-18A in the early 1990s, the Smokey Sam remains in production and operational service, being extensively used by the U.S. military.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Parsch 2002
  2. ^ Kitfield 1995, p.166.
  3. ^ Taylor 2006
  • Kitfield, James (1995). Prodigal Soldiers: How the Generation of Officers Born of Vietnam Revolutionzed the American Style of War. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-76925-1. 
  • Parsch, Andreas (2002). "NWC GTR-18 Smokey Sam". Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles. Retrieved 2011-01-05. 
  • Taylor, Bill (9 March 2006). "Dual Thrust Modified Smokey Sam for Low Cost Testing and Simulation" (PDF). NDIA 22nd National Test & Evaluation Conference. Sensor Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory. Retrieved 2011-01-06.