White Sands Launch Complex 38

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Nike Zeus for ZW-9 launch at WSMR on August 10, 1960

Launch Complex 38 (originally "Army Launch Area Five")[1] was the White Sands Missile Range facility for testing the Nike Zeus anti-ballistic missile. The site is located east of the WSMR Post Area.


In February 1957, the prototype Nike Hercules installation was completed at White Sands Launch Complex 37, and a satisfactory flight test was conducted on March 13 (92 Hercules firings through November 13, 1957[2]--Operation Understanding civilian tours were conducted in 1967.)[3] The 1956[4] Nike II anti-ballistic missile study for an advance Project Nike evolved into the development program for the Nike Zeus ABM[citation needed] and in January 1961, "ARGMA submitted the “NIKE-ZEUS Defense Production Plan” to the Chief of Ordnance".[5] Ascension Island's Target Tracking Radar was checked out on January 16, 1961,[4] and used to create recordings of radar reception from Cape Canaveral warheads, "chunks of the booster rocket", and "nose cone decoys" during reentry for use as simulated "ghost" missile input during WSMR's Zeus "synthetic intercept" program."[6]

ZAR compound[edit]

Deployment of the Zeus Acquisition Radar (ZAR) at the planned Launch Complex began in October 1958[7] near an airstrip.[8] The LC-18's rectangular compound for the ZAR buildings at 32°24′28.5″N 106°15′25.0″W / 32.407917°N 106.256944°W / 32.407917; -106.256944[9] was begun between AMTC and Oro Grande.[8] The ZAR power building housed "nine 1,500kW generators",[4] and ZAR initial operation was in June[10]/July 1961.[5] The HAPDAR (HArd Point Demonstration Array Radar)[11] construction began 16 July 1965 in the former ZAR Receiver building.[12]

Launching facilities[edit]

The Nike Zeus prototype launching facilities in the design by the Burns and Roe Company[4] was begun in 1959[13] and completed in October 1962.[14] LC-18 had a Battery Control Building ("contained two Missile Track Radars, the Target Intercept Computer, and data communication equipment"),[10] a Launch Control Building (LCB, now used for the Patriot missile), Launch Cell,[15] tunnel,[16] and nearby tracking radar.[17] WSMR also had Zeus storage bunkers with sloped ends.[18] The first launch from the LC-38 "R & D underground emplacement" was on April 28, 1960,[4] and the last WSMR Zeus launch was the 72nd "firing" in December 1963[19] after 18 failures.[10]


HIBEX rocket

The Zeus "Discrimination Radar (DR) and Target Tracking Radar (TTR) were used as part of a re-entry signature studies program"[20]--"the first successful Athena test missile fired from Utah into WSMR" was in June 1964.[10] White Sands was also the site of the AMRAD—ARPA Measurements Radar[21]—built 1961-3 for assessing reentry of the Special Test Vehicle of Athena/ABRES firings.[22] In 1965, seven[23] HIBEX missiles were tested at WSMR,[24] and the first Sprint missile launch was at WSMR in November 1965.[25]

Bell Telephone Laboratories[26] started the Multi-function Array Radar (MAR-I) construction at WSMR for Nike-X in March 1963.[27] MAR-1 was based on the ZAR, and was the basis for the Kwajalein Missile Site Radar.[2] in September 1968. In February 1974 the last "operational NIKE-ZEUS facility, Target Track Radar-4, ceased operations"[28] and during the War on Terror, the tunnel complex was used for simulating a Taliban combat area.

External image
[ Zeus launch from LC-18]


  1. ^ "White Sands Proving Ground - Playing With Fire". sites.google.com. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  2. ^ a b Leonard, Barry (c. 1986). History of Strategic and Ballistic Missile Defense: Volume II: 1956-1972 (Army.mil PDF -- also available at Google Books). Retrieved 2012-09-01.[specify]
  3. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1893&dat=19670602
  4. ^ a b c d e "by the Technical Editor" (2 August 1962). "Nike Zeus: Seventeen years of system growth" (PDF). Flight International. Retrieved 2014-04-11. During 1956, the Army asked Bell Telephone Laboratories to investigate the feasibility of producing a system which could provide defence against an ICBM. ... During 1957 the Army authorized the long-established Nike team to start the design of the Nike Zeus system... Nike Zeus early test configuration ... Prime industrial contractor [for Nike Zeus] is the Western Electric Co. ... 1955 Whippany Initial studies by Bell Telephone Laboratories. ...
  5. ^ a b "SMDC timeline". smdc.army.mil. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  6. ^ "Radar Spots The Big Ones At The Cape". Miami Beach Morning Journal. March 13, 1961. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
  7. ^ Piland, Doyle. "Way Back When. . ..." (PDF). WSMR newsletter. Retrieved 2014-04-11. Launch Complex 38...Site preparation for the TTR [Target Tracking Radar] began in July 1959. ... Site preparation for the Discrimination Radar was started in January 1961.
  8. ^ a b Site Plan: Nike Zeus Facilities ALA 5 (Map). reproduced in WSMR newsletter: Federal Government of the United States. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  9. ^ "Display site". radomes.org. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  10. ^ a b c d "Part I. History of ABM Development". posted at AlternateWars.com. Retrieved 2014-04-11. the ZAR represents the most efficient wired-logic system for detection, report sorting, track initiation, and track processing ever developed. Its stacked-array receivers on three rotating arms also provided the highest data rate (measured for full hemispheric coverage) yet achieved, and is not matched even by today's phased-array systems. ... Principal features of the NIKE-X System concept were summarized in a paper, "NIKE-X, Design Approach and Preliminary Description" which was presented at the Anti-Missile Research and Advisory Council (AMRAC) Symposium, April 15, 1963, in Monterey, California. ... TTR No. 4 was changed from a 22- to a 40-foot antenna dish and a wideband 60-MHz coherent system. (See Figure 1-35.) In addition, an X-band receiver system was added to provide telemetry reception from NIKE-X supported RVs equipped with special on-board instrumentation.
  11. ^ "title tbd". [Nov 1968] The HAPDAR (HArd Point Demonstration Array Radar) described is a multifunction phased array radar in operation at the White Sands Missile Range. The principle design feature is the TACOL (Thinned Aperture COmputed Lens) array.
  12. ^ "White Sands Missile Range Launch Complex 38". wsmr-history.org. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  13. ^ Historical Reference Paper #6, NORAD's Quest for Nike Zeus and a YF-12A (a Long-Range Interceptorà, 1 July 1962
  14. ^ North American Air Defense Command Historical Summary (Report).[specify]
  15. ^ "White Sands Missile Range Launch Complex 38". wsmr-history.org. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  16. ^ "DVIDS - Images - Launch complex 38 tunnel [Image 2 of 2]". dvidshub.net. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  17. ^ The Big Picture: Tularosa Frontier. This is the housing for a giant radar antenna for the Nike Zeus anti-missile missile. [Sign at minute 17:50:] Systems Test Division Blockhouse Area |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  18. ^ YouTube video minute 3:00 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_diASJyD8WU
  19. ^ "Nike R&D at White Sands, Zeus, 1954-1970 (page 13)". nikemissile.org. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  20. ^ "White Sands Missile Range History". wsmr-history.org. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  21. ^ "Ballistic missile defense" (PDF). ll.mit.edu. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  22. ^ http://www.ll.mit.edu/publications/journal/pdf/vol12_no2/12_2ballisticmissiledefense.pdf
  23. ^ Mark Paine. "Sprint". nuclearabms.info. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  24. ^ http://www.alternatewars.com/WW3/WW3_Documents/DARPA/DARPA_II_HIBEX.htm
  25. ^ Paine, Mark. "Sprint".
  26. ^ "Science_and_Technology - DARPA" (PDF). dod.mil. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  27. ^ Walker, James A.; Bernstein, Lewis; Lang, Sharon (1 January 2003). "Seize the High Ground: The Army in Space and Missile Defense". Government Printing Office – via Google Books.
  28. ^ http://www.smdc.army.mil/2008/historical/timelines/smdctimeline1_firstabmsiteinthefreeworld.doc