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Nike Hercules Missile — Cold War Defender

12 April 2013

Nike Hercules Missile — Cold War Defender

— photo by Joseph May

One of the guiding signs to the new exhibit of a Nike Hercules missile — photo by Joseph May

The Nike Hercules was a surface-to-air ground guided missile which was fast and sleek. Barely after the end of WW II the Nike Hercules was sleek by the standards of the 1960s and 1970s though it was produced in the 1950s. One has recently been placed on exhibit as part of the National Park Service HM-69 Missile Base tour in the Everglades National Park — information and a review of the tour can be read in the previous post — and we were excited to see it. 

— photo by Joseph May

Information sign at the HM-69 site showing a live Nike Hercules missile on the rail system where it could be manually pushed by two or three men to its firing position — photo by Joseph May

Yesteryear in the image above and today in the image below. No matter how you looked at it, HM-69 was no garden spot but it was vital in its day. During the earlier portion of the Cold War, when IRBM and ICBMs did not exist, one type of attack was by medium and high altitude heavy bombers carrying nuclear weapons. One layer of defense against  this threat was the Nike Hercules missile system with the ability to command the medium-to-high altitude airspace up to height of 100,000 feet (~30,300m) to a range of 100 miles (160km). The bombers would be expected to be fast, so the Nike Hercules would have to be faster and was it ever. The first stage would boost the missile off the launching pad and to a velocity of Mach 2 in less than two seconds. The four solid rocket booster stage would fall away to allow the second stage solid rocket motor to continue the acceleration to a velocity of nearly Mach 4. Radar guidance commands from the ground would attempt to steer the missiles to an intercept point slightly ahead and above the incoming threat — at which time the warhead would be command detonated. Nike Hercules warheads could either be conventional or atomic but it is not clear if the missiles based at HM-69 were nuclear tipped, or not.

— photo by Joseph May

A Nike Hercules missile barn at the HM-69 site with three firing pads in a row on the right hand side — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

An inert Nike Hercules missile on exhibit at the HM-69 site — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Looking forward from aside the first stage booster stage — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Looking to the rear of the missile best showing the second stage — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Four solid fuel booster rockets comprised the first stage and were responsible for getting the Nike Hercules off the ground and accelerated to Mach 2 with two seconds, although the unit was trained the military practice to constantly remind is evident — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

The juncture of the first and second stages, nothing pretty here, but, since its purpose was only for two seconds there was little need apparently for aerodynamic considerations — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Base of the Nike Hercules with fixed fins — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

The  rear portions of the stabilizing fins on the second stage and their hinged control surfaces — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Detail view of the  control surfaces as well as the hinges — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Detail of a stabilizing fin on the Nike Hercules nose cone — photo by Joseph May

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 31 May 2013 10:10

    In the article above, it states, ” Nike Hercules warheads could either be conventional or atomic but it is not clear if the missiles based at HM-69 were nuclear tipped, or not.”

    If you read the article on the webpage, you will find that although the missile battalion arrived in south Florida in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 without nuclear warheads, many of the missiles were equipped with nuclear warheads from 1966 – 1975.

    In the spring of 1975, the Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered the Army to remove the W-31 nuclear warheads and replace them with the conventional high explosive T-45 fragmentation warheads. This operation, named in Operation Golden Shoes, involved the support of the Army 295th Military Police Company (Physical Security), Army Chinook CH-47 and Huey helicopters, and Air Force C-141 heavy-lit cargo aircraft. By late summer, all the W-31s in south Florida had been replaced with T-45s.

    I was stationed there from 1963 – 1965.

    SSGT Charles D. Carter
    Cold War Historian
    Nike Missile Site Historian
    Everglades National Park
    40001 State Road 9336
    Homestead, FL 33034
    Phone: (760) 404-0771

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      31 May 2013 21:54

      Thanks so much SSgt. Carter as well as for your service. You have added to the post and I do not doubt your information so I will figure out the best way to edit it to add this new information and make the post more accurate, as well as reference the Nike 252 site. I’ll research your site, as well, and likely contact you since I’m sure you have a wealth of insight along with your knowledge.

      Joe May
      Travel for Aircraft

  2. 20 August 2015 06:17


    I have an extensive collection of documents and photographs I am happy to share. Please contact me at and I will send you a copy of an article I wrote for the HistoryMiami Museum about the Nike Missiles in south Florida from 1962 – 1969.


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