MGR-3 Little John

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The MGR-3 Little John was a free flight artillery rocket system designed and put into service by the U.S. Army during the 1950s and 1960s.


The XM51 was only an interim rocket, essentially a rocket test vehicle, and was used for training and testing purposes only.

Carried on the XM34 rocket launcher, it could carry either nuclear or conventional warheads. It was primarily intended for use in airborne assault operations and to complement the heavier, self-propelled Honest John rocket systems. Development of the missile was started at Army’s Rocket and Guided Missile Agency laboratory at Huntsville, Alabama, the Redstone Arsenal, in June 1955. In June 1956, the first launch of the XM47 Little John occurred. The Little John was delivered to the field in November 1961 and remained in the regular Army's weapons inventory until August 1969.[1][2]

It was a fin-stabilized field artillery rocket that followed a ballistic trajectory to ground targets. The rocket XM51 consisted of a warhead, a rocket motor assembly, and an igniter assembly. The components were shipped in separate containers and assembled by the user.[1]

The Little John differs from the Honest John in not only its size but how it is stabilized in flight. The flight of the Honest John is stabilized by a spin that is imparted to the rocket by spin rockets after the round leaves the launcher. The Little John rocket flight is stabilized by applying spin to the rocket while on the launcher, just before firing. This manual method of stabilization was called "spin-on-straight-rail" (SOSR).[1] The system was manufactured by the Douglas Aircraft Company.

The missile and launcher system were light enough to be easily transported by helicopters and other aircraft or towed by a vehicle. The Phase II Little John weapon system was initially deployed with the 1st Missile Battalion, 57th Field Artillery in Okinawa, Japan.

The missile was retired beginning in July, 1967, with the final missile removed from inventory in 1970. Five hundred missiles were produced during the life of the weapon program.[3]


 United States
United States Army


Internal components of the Medium Atomic Demolition Munition. W45 warhead is to the right of the casing.
  • Length: 4.4 metres (14.5 ft)[4]
  • Diameter: 320 millimetres (12.5 in)[4]
  • Missile weight: 350 kilograms (780 lb)[4]
  • Combined weight of missile and launcher: 910 kilograms (2,000 lb)
  • Warhead: W45 with a yield of 1–10 kilotons of TNT (4.2–41.8 TJ).
  • Propellant: solid rocket fuel
  • Maximum range: 19 kilometres (10 nmi)[4]


  1. ^ a b c "Little John -- The MightyMite" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  2. ^ Parsch, Andreas. "Emerson Electric M47/M51/MGR-3 Little John". Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  3. ^ "Complete List of All U.S. Nuclear Weapons". October 14, 2006. Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  4. ^ a b c d John R. Taylor (November 9, 1967). "Missiles 1967: Table 2: Tactical Missiles". Flight International. Retrieved 2009-02-17.