Post-War Developments: 1946-1956

The Douglas Aircraft Co. ... New Missiles

U.S. missiles built during the mid-20th century Cold War combined propulsion systems, aerospace technologies and computerized guidance -- important developments along the road to space travel.

Douglas' first missile, the experimental Roc I started in 1940, was an air-to-ground 1,000-pound rocket equipped with a homing device that directed it to ground targets. Its tactical version, Roc II, provided the technological basis for the Douglas WAC vehicle, a liquid-fuel rocket developed for the U.S. Army in 1944, and the subsequent WAC Corporal.

The concept of a multistage rocket reaching extreme altitudes was demonstrated in 1949 when a WAC Corporal, mounted on the nose of a captured German V-2, was air-launched to an altitude of 244 miles, at more than 5,000 mph. Douglas also built the Honest John artillery missile for the U.S. Army, starting in 1950. First deployed in 1954, Honest John was the first American tactical missile to become operational.

Douglas' next missile was the Nike Ajax, a long-range, self-propelled, anti-aircraft weapon, and the world's first operational surface-to-air guided missile. It was followed by the Nike Hercules and Nike Zeus. Zeus was a three-stage rocket using solid fuel. It was equipped with radar detection and tracking systems and was linked to a computerized control system that would guide it to its incoming targets.

In 1955, Douglas began to build the Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) designed to hit sites outside the country.

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