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MGM-18 Lacrosse

Starting in 1947, Lacrosse was developed as a short-range guided missile to supplement conventional field artillery. Development of the Lacrosse stemmed from World War II combat experiences, where heavily fortified bunkers, caves and pillboxes were virtually impregnable to anything but a direct hit. After the war, the military requested a weapon that would be mobile, accurate, and capable of delivering a variety of warheads.

The Lacrosse originally was developed by the U.S. Navy to fill a U.S. Marine Corps requirement for a short-range guided missile to supplement close-support artillery. The Joint Chiefs of Staff determined that the U.S. Army would be responsible for short-range ballistic surface-to-surface missile development. Shortly thereafter, the Lacrosse was officially turned over to the U.S. Army.

Feasibility studies began in late 1947, with component tests beginning in late 1951. Lacrosse boosters were test-fired at White Sands Proving Ground in 1952. In 1953, the radio command guidance system was tested by Lark test vehicles, followed by the prototype Lacrosse missile that same year. The Glen L. Martin Co. took over and expanded the project in 1955. In July 1959, Lacrosse was delivered to operational Army units. Two years later, the Army decided to terminate the program and Lacrosse was out of the Army's inventory by February 1964.

The MGM-18 Lacrosse was a surface to surface ballistic missile meant for close tactical support of ground troops. An all-weather weapon the Lacrosse was able to strike hard targets with conventional or nuclear warheads as a replacement for conventional artillery units. Featuring a self-propelled launcher Lacrosse was meant to be highly mobile and available for assignment as core artillery.

LACROSSE, was controlled from a forward observation station in order to enable it to hit its target without having a complicated computer installation at its launching site. When a target was located by the forward station the missile is fired from the launching site and directed into the target by the light and mobile forward guidance station.

Although LACROSSE was originally designed for close troop support, its role was expanded to include general military support, and the missile is capable of delivering numerous types of warheads. The units were self-contained and highly mobile having a simple and efficient supporting system. All units were vehicle mounted, and could be air-lifted to battle areas when necessary. Because of this mobility, it presented a difficult target for the enemy. A standard ARMY 21/2 ton. 6X6 truck chassis served as a launcher.

LACROSSE had an overrall lenght of 19.2 feet, a fuselage diameter of 20.5 inches, a wingspan of 9 feet, and a fin span of 4.7 feet. The missile body had three major assemblies, the nose section or warhead, the center section, which includes the guidance equipment, and the tail section with its solid propellant rocket engine. Four swept wings and four movable tail fins control pitch, yaw, and roll, keeping the rocket on course, and fit quickly into recesses in the fuselage. The missile has a range of between 20 and 25 miles.

Designed to be guided by forward controllers that could monitor its flight and send it corrections the Lacrosses accuracy depended entirely on the controllers. In theory a highly accurate missile that could be brought directly down upon a target would be more effective than a conventional artillery unit that fired salvos of unguided shells.

The main problem was that the radio signals that guided the Lacrosse were easily jammed. If electronic countermeasures were successfully used against the Lacrosse while it was in-flight a nuclear warhead could be flying out of control near friendly troops it was meant to support. Enhanced guidance systems were considered that might have offered better protection against electronic countermeasures but were never successfully developed.

Lacrosse was not considered reliable enough to remain in service and was retired after only 5 years in the field. While this missile was not an operational success its development helped to learn valuable lessons which are even now being applied to tactical supporting guided missiles today. Nearly 1,200 Lacrosse missiles were produced and deployed between 1959 and 1964, at a cost of more than $2 billion (excluding the cost of the nuclear warhead). The missile's nuclear warhead the W40had a yield of either 1.7 or 10 kilotons and was designed by Los Alamos National Laboratory.


Developed By U.S. Army
First Firing 1953
Range 20-25 miles
Speed up to Mach 2
Propellant Solid
Length19' 2"
Weight2,360 lbs.
WarheadShaped Charge or W40 nuclear warhead
Mobility100 percent, and air transportable
Time required to emplace weapon and fireapproximately 5 minutes
Fire control equipmentAiming Circle M2, Panoramic Telescope M12A7


Weight16,000 lbs.
Elevation limits5 to 70 or 88 mils to 1244 mils
Traversing limits15 right/left or 266 mils right/left

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