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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)




Redstone PGM-11 / XSSM-G-14 (MAJOR)

The REDSTONE was a highly accurate, liquid propelled, surface-to-surface missile capable of transporting nuclear or conventional warheads against targets at ranges up to approximately 175 nautical miles. Because the delicate payload demanded an extremely accurate and reliable missile system, the propulsion and guidance systems of the REDSTONE missile went through an extensive development, inspection, and testing program at Redstone Arsenal.

After the creation of a separate Air Force in 1947, the Army had continued rocket development, operating on the same assumption behind the German Army's research in the 1930s - that rocketry was basically an extension of artillery. In 1950 the Army consolidated its missile programs, moving the projects and personnel at White Sands and other places to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. On 10 July 1950, the Office, Chief of Ordnance directed the Ordnance Guided Missile Center to conduct a preliminary study of the technical requirements and the possibilities of developing a 500-mile tactical missile. On 10 July 1951, the Office, Chief of Ordnance (OCO) formally transferred research and development responsibility for the REDSTONE project to Redstone Arsenal.

As time went on, reorientation of the Army's missile program became necessary for several reasons: new atomic warheads developed; funds available to the Amy became limited; and the unsettled international situation intensified the urgency of obtaining operational missiles. Project HERMES was affected the most, Ordnance cancelled HERMES A-1, as a weapon and suspended HERMES A-2; this left only the A-3 as a major effort at General Electric, Responsibility for the HEWS C-1 study went to Redstone Arsenal and became the REDSTONE project (designated in the interim as Major).

As of 1951 the MAJOR was to be a ballistic rocket with a range of 75-150 miles, a warhead weighing 6,900 pounds, and an inertial guidance system accurate within 150 yards in range and azimnth. Since the initiation of Project MAJOR, Redstone Arsenal had been reorganized and the Ordnance Guided Missile Center was designated as the Guided Missile Development Branch of the Technical and Engineering Division, The personnel and facilities for Project MAJOR have not been affected by the reorganization.

The OCO officially assigned the REDSTONE missile its name on 8 April 1952. In response to a Chief of Ordnance directive, the new agency began work on a surface-to-surface multistage missile with a 500-mile range. In 1953, the Redstone missile was successfully tested at Cape Canaveral. In 1955, the Army recommended to the Department of Defense (DoD) that the Redstone missile be developed as the intermediate range missile recommended by the Killian committee. On 1 February 1956, the Army established the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) at Redstone.

Faced with what many officers interpreted as a threat to the existence of their service, the Army undertook comprehensive, total — and in retrospect often poorly executed — effort to create an atomic-era military force. Both the need for institutional survival and Eisenhower’s New Look policy drove the army towards creating the Atomic Field Army [ATFA] which would allow the army to stake its claim on the nuclear battlefield.

Also known as the Army's "Old Reliable," the REDSTONE was a highly accurate, liquid propelled, surface-to-surface missile capable of transporting nuclear or conventional warheads against targets with an original range of 500 miles that was later reduced to 200 miles. Always the favorite of the von Braun group working for the Army, the Redstone was a direct descendant of the V-2.

Derived from the Hermes C-1 project and building upon German experience with the V-2, the Redstone utilized the XLR43 engine from the Navaho project. The Redstone's liquid-fueled engine burned alcohol and liquid oxygen and produced about 75,000 pounds of thrust. The 75-110 A7 engine was derived from the North American Aviation XLR43-NA-1 liquid-propellant rocket engine originally designed for the Air Force Navaho project. North American Aviation’s Rocketdyne division was later asked to upgrade this engine to accommodate an increase in payload from 3,000 to 6,900 pounds. The result was the NAA 75-110 (75,000 pounds of thrust for 110 minutes). Ultimately NAA 75-110 engine improvements later resulted in seven engine types which were designated A-1 through A-7 and reached a final performance of 78,000 pounds of thrust for a duration of 117 seconds. This A-series of engines utilized a cylindrical combustion chamber design over the spherical V-2 chamber.

The fuselage of the Redstone was developed in-house at the Army’s Guided Missile Development Division with Chrysler serving as prime contractor. Peenemunde veteran William A. Mrazek was placed in charge of developing the structure that consisted of pressurized aluminum propellant tanks. The tail unit consisted of a riveted aluminum structure with four stabilizing fins and air rudders with carbon jet vanes extending into the exhaust stream.

Nearly 70 feet long and slightly under 6 feet in diameter, the battlefield missile had a speed at burnout, the point of propellant exhaustion, of 3,800 miles per hour. For guidance it utilized an all-inertial system featuring a gyroscopically stabilized platform, computers, a programmed flight path taped into the rocket before launch, and the activation of the steering mechanism by signals in flight. For control during powered ascent the Redstone depended on tail fins with movable rudders and refractory carbon vanes mounted in the rocket exhaust. The prime contract for the manufacture of Redstone test rockets went to the Chrysler Corporation.

Being inertially guided, once the Redstone was launched, it was beyond further corrective control efforts from the firing unit. Therefore, to hit the target, it was necessary to provide a means whereby the missile could establish where it was and where it should be at any time along its entire flight trajectory. This was accomplished by the ST-80 stabilized platform which provided a space-fixed reference for measuring the angular movement of the axis of the missile and missile displacement. Before launch, the missile's intended trajectory was computed and data was preset into the missile's guidance and control system.

In August 1953 a Redstone fabricated at the Huntsville arsenal made a partially successful maiden flight of only 8,000 yards from the military's missile range at Cape Canaveral, Florida. During the next five years, 37 Redstones were fired to test structure, engine performance, guidance and control, tracking, and telemetry. Initially, the Ordnance Corps planned a research and development progran encompassing the flight testing of 75 missiles. But on 16 June 1954. the Industrial Division in the Office, Chief of Ordnance informed the Guided Missile Development Division that Missile 45 would be the last designated research and development missile. The reduction of the number of flight test missiles as it better conveyed the success that the Ordnance Corps was achieving with the Redstone missiles. This led to the decision to use approximately 50 of the missiles for flight tests while reserving 25 for troop training, for engineering, service, and user tests, and for other special tests that might become necessary.

As a weapon, the Redstone was considered to be a medium range missile to supplement and extend the range or firepower of the existing artillery and shorter range missiles, to provide increased support for deployed ground combat forces, and to compensate for the expanding dimensions of the battle area. Basically, it was intended to supplement army and corps artillery fire and to provide ballistic missile artillery fire on all targets of interest to the field army commander. Among the potential targets were included troop concentrations, command installations, missile launching sites, airfields, communication centers, logistic installations, and critical terrain defiles.

The basic unit for employment of the Redstone was the Field Artillery Missile Group (Heavy). The field artillery battalion (heavy) as the basic firing unit was by far the largest group. It was composed of a battalion headquarters and service battery and two firing batteries. Each firing battery operated a single launcher and was allocated a basic load of one missile per launcher. Transported in three units (warhead, aft, and thrust), the missile was designed and constructed for assembly in the field.

First deployed in 1958, the REDSTONE was the forerunner of the JUPITER missile. On 31 January 1958, the REDSTONE was used as the first stage in the launch vehicle used by the Army to orbit the EXPLORER I, the Free World's first scientific earth satellite. A modified REDSTONE carried CDR Alan B. Shepard, Jr. on his historic suborbital flight on 5 May 1961. With the deployment of the speedier, more mobile PERSHING missile system in 1964, the REDSTONE missile system was ceremonially retired at Redstone Arsenal on 30 October 1964.

The Redstone occupied a unique position in the Department of the Army's missile program. While it was not the first surface-to-surface 7 missile system developed for combat use (the Corporal was earlier), it better represented the highly accurate and reliable weapon system that the Ordnance Department was seeking when it established a missile research and development program in 1944. The Redstone also better reflected the foresight of the Department of the Army's early missile program planners. They laid the groundwork that made possible the Redstone's successes when they foresaw step-by-step progress through basic and applied research as the means of achieving a successful missile development program.

Guided missile and rocket development began in earnest within the Department of the Army in September 1943 when the Technical Division of the Office, Chief of Ordnance established a Rocket Branch. Even after the introduction of the German rockets in World War I1 left no doubt as to the feasibility of missile systems as tactical weapons, they still rejected the idea of "crashing" a program to develop similar systems.

The Army's growing interest in space began to accelerate when the first true engineered thesis for a minimum satellite vehicle utilizing existing Army Ordnance Corps hardware was published on 15 September 1954 by the Guided Missile Development Division of the Army Ordnance Missile Laboratories at Redstone Arsenal. Written by Dr. von Braun, the thesis proposed using the REDSTONE missile as the main booster of a four-stage rocket for launching artificial satellites. The three upper stages were to consist of LOKI rockets. The plan was later expanded into a joint Army-Navy proposal called Project ORBITER. However, the Army's official role in the U.S. space satellite program was delayed after higher authorities elected in 1955 to pursue Project VANGUARD, which was based on the Navy's VIKING missile.

The Army team at Redstone Arsenal resolved the nose cone reentry heat problem. The nose cone from the flight test of JUPITER C RS-40 was recovered intact on 8 August 1957, marking the first time that a man-made object had been retrieved from outer space as well as proving the suitability of the nose cone's ablative-type heat protection. It also carried the first missile mail ever delivered over intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) distance. In a major televised address on science and security on 7 November 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced that Army scientists had successfully solved the problem of ballistic missile reentry. The nose cone recovered on 8 August was shown to the nation during this telecast.

With the successful launch of EXPLORER I on 31 January 1958, just 84 days after receiving the mission, the Army embarked on an ambitious program which rapidly advanced U.S. interests and goals in the space arena. The Army Ballistic Missile Agency, which became a subordinate element of the Army Ordnance Missile Command (AOMC) on 31 March 1958, placed additional EXPLORER satellites into orbit on 26 March 1958, 26 July 1958, and 13 October 1959.

Shortly after its first official day on 1 October 1958, NASA formally organized a project to place a manned space capsule in orbit. This program was officially named Project MERCURY on 26 November 1958. Army REDSTONE missiles were modified for use in NASA's test vehicle program. On 19 December 1960, a MERCURY-REDSTONE missile (MR-1A) successfully carried a 1-ton MERCURY capsule 135 miles high and 235 miles downrange of the Atlantic Missile Range, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The successful suborbital flight of MERCURY-REDSTONE 2 carried a chimpanzee named Ham, helping to prove the system's operational capabilities in a space environment. Ham survived the mission safely. The first manned space flight was accomplished on 5 May 1961 when CDR Alan B. Shepard, Jr., a Navy astronaut, rode a MERCURY-REDSTONE (MR-3) on a suborbital flight. The last MERCURY-REDSTONE mission, also a manned suborbital flight, carried CPT Virgil I. Grissom, an Air Force astronaut, to a peak altitude of 118 miles and safely landed him 303 miles downrange.

The Redstone Missile project offered the Army a chance to develop its own long-range tactical and theater-level nuclear threat, but at the cost of a bitter, and ultimately unsuccessful battle with the Air Force which lasted throughout the 1950s. The Army also explored the possibility of short-range tactical missiles which could be used by smaller and smaller units. The logical extreme of this was the infamous Davy Crockett — a light, portable rocket that could lob a tactical nuclear warhead slightly over a mile, vaporizing enemy tanks [and its own crew??] in one mini-mushroom cloud.




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