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The Launch Pad's Nike Ajax MIM-3A kit is the first three-motor cluster model offered by the company. It stands an eye-popping 55.5" tall (1/7.5 scale), and is recovered by two 18"x30" parachutes. Featuring a plastic nosecone, balsa fin stock and many other wooden parts, the Nike Ajax is definitely a builder's kit. Although The Launch Pad's Nike Ajax MIM-3A is an aesthetically accurate rendition of the actual missile, some hobbyists have turned the model into a 2-stage rocket to more closely mimic the original during flight.
A 3/16" diameter launch rod is required. Calm winds and a 12 volt launch system for clustered ignition are recommended.
Skill Level: 4
Length: 55.5 in.
Diameter: 2.6 in. (max)
Weight: 11.8 oz. (approx.)
Nike Ajax was the first guided SAM system in the world to enter operational service. The guidance hardware was derived directly from that used to aim radar-controlled anti-aircraft artillery guns towards the end of WWII. The system used two separate radars; one to track the target and another to track the missile. A computer intersected the two beams at a predicted future point and, when the missile was just below the nose of the target, a pulsed code was sent to explode the fragmentation warheads. Nike Ajax contained not one, but three warheads, weighing 12, 179, and 122 pounds, respectively. Burnout speed was Mach 2.3, well above that of any attack aircraft of the time.
Its origins lay in the immediate post-war time, when the U.S. Army realized that guided missiles were the only way to provide air-defense against future fast high-flying bombers. Western Electric became prime contractor for the XSAM-G-7 Nike missile system, and Douglas as primary subcontractor was responsible for the missile airframe.
The first unguided Nike missiles were fired in 1946, but problems with the original multi-rocket booster (8 solid-fuel rockets wrapped around the missile tail) soon led to delays in the program. In 1948 it was decided to replace this booster pack with a single rocket booster, attached to the back of the missile. The main propulsion of the missile was a Bell liquid-fueled rocket motor, and the flight path was controlled by the four small fins around the nose. In November 1951 the first successful interception of a QB-17 target drone succeeded. The first production Nike (which had been redesignated SAM-A-7 in 1951) flew in 1952, and the first operational Nike site was activated in 1954. On 15 November 1956, the name was changed to Nike Ajax.
The Nike Ajax missile used a command guidance system. An acquisition radar called LOPAR (Low-Power Acquisition Radar) picked up potential targets at long range, and the information on hostile targets was then transferred to the TTR (Target Tracking Radar). An adjacent MTR (Missile Tracking Radar) tracked the flight path of the Nike Ajax missile. Using tracking data of the TTR and MTR, a computer calculated the interception trajectory, and sent appropriate course correction commands to the missile. The three high-explosive fragmentation warheads of the missile (in nose, center, and aft section) were detonated by ground command, when the paths of target and missile met.
By 1958, nearly 200 Nike Ajax sites had been activated in the USA. However, the far more advanced MIM-14 Nike Hercules soon replaced the Nike Ajax, and by late 1963 the last Nike Ajax on U.S. soil had been retired. In 1963, the Nike Ajax had received the new designation MIM-3A. Despite the use of an MIM (Mobile Intercept Missile) designator, the mobility of the Nike Ajax system was more theoretical than actually feasible in a combat situation.
The MIM-3A continued to serve with U.S. overseas and friendly forces for many more years. In total, more than 16000 missiles were built.
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