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"Nike Kill Ratio"
How good was Nike?

Executive summary:
If "proof is in the pudding" or actually shooting down high flying Soviet bombers -
we really don't know.
- Fortunately - the situation never arose,
Thank you Mikhail Gorbachev & Ronald Reagan !!!!!
Or another view - The cop (NIKE) was near, the bad guys stayed away!

Table of contents - as of April 4, 2011

Initial Question
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Ajax and Nike Kill Ratio
Date: Mon, March 28, 2011 4:33 pm


Do you know where I could find a good statement for subject that I could put in my book? That question came up at our historical presentation. George's answer was that they kept missing in simulations or drills. I don't like to see it expressed that way, but he was the Lieutenant.

I would guess that it was about 40% for the Ajax, and about 60% for the Hercules.




Response from Michael Keller - - April 4, 2011

Please let me add some words to the discussion about Ajax and Hercules Kill Ratio.

In the German Book "Blazing Skies, History of the German Airforce Air Defense Corps.."
Google Books

I found this:

quote "in 1975, after the evaluation of the yearly practice shootings at the NAMFI Range, it was found out that the lethal distance of the fragment pattern could only bring down an enemy Airplane up to the distance of 75 Kilometers. Beyond that point the steering error was to high. From that time on it whas only allowed for German BCO´s to open fire below this distance." end of qoute.

So, if the first-shoot-kill-probability is hampered with this steering error problem, this leads to a lesser Kill Ratio...

My talking around the issue ;-)) - I could go into politics ;-))
A "quick" note:
One of the fundamental limits to accuracy is the static alignment of the Target Tracking Radar and the Missile Tracking Radar. With precision monopulse radars this can be quite good. I estimate that at the time of adjustment, the error (without ground effects) and similar refraction paths, that this error can be made less than 25 feet each radar at 100 miles. The two radars, could have a differential angular error of 50 feet at this range. Unfortunately, there are many other error sources - range errors, dynamic tracking errors, filtering errors, and on and on. (Not including "challenges" due to jamming.)

Kill Ratio- from Richard's e-mail, above
> "I would guess that it was about 40% for the Ajax, and about 60% for the Hercules."

Kill - as related to an explosive device, with lots of fragments, near an aircraft -
Is at best a difficult subject -

We have all seen the B-17 which returned from a raid on Germany with its entire nose off - you and I would likely have considered that plane a "gonner".

It is also likely that a single "stray" bullet/fragment hit some B-17 in some vital spot - and downed the aircraft.

Given that thousands of Allied bombers were shot down over/near Germany in WWII, almost any physically possible scenario could have actually happened.

When I was in Nike school, we discussed the above briefly -
then it was announced that - and my memory is weak oddly weak about this -

that if the Nike burst (I think 15) yards from the aircraft, it was figured that there was a 50% probability the aircraft could not continue far enough to drop its bomb(s) effectively. ie, not on the intended target.

Various experiments with Nike (Ajax) warheads near old B-17s were conducted to help support this figure.

Closer is obviously "better". Our aim was to be as "good" as possible!

Now - how to convert the above assumptions into numerics at the range??

  1. Most warhead explosions were not photographed from 2 wide angles which would enable calculation of actual distance from the RCAT target.
  2. We ( in the Ajax) program were not being jammed - (no intentional radar jamming was used against us) Later, in the Hercules program, the T-1 trailer could give the TTR operators jamming, of various types, from light to blinding.
  3. There was an analog "Event Recorder" from which one could approximate how far our Target Tracking Radar (TTR) said the target was from where the Missile Tracking Radar (MTR) said the missile was. I regarded this method "optimistic".
    This assumed that the radars were well bore-sighted, and many of other variables -
  4. Our happy/tragic little RCAT targets were either easier or harder to knock down than a hypothetical Soviet bomber.
  5. A reason that the Hercules was regarded as better than the Ajax was that its target tracking was supposed to be better at locking onto one aircraft in a formation, and not be so subject to flipping back and forth between multiple targets very close in range - possibly causing the missile to explode between targets - but not close enough to kill either -
  6. Nike Ajax and Hercules systems were designed to be effective against high flying targets.
    • Terrain hugging bombers are a problem with any defense system. The current Tomahawk missile is a terrain hugger for this very reason.
    • The later HAWK surface to air missile system used Doppler Radar, which is much more effective against low flying targets.
    • The Air Force would fly their B-52 bombers very low to try to prove that Nike wasn't any good - Unfortunately, the Air Force BOMARC had the same deficiency - as does any missile guided from the earth's surface.
  7. and on and on, until the beer is all gone ...

Now - how someone is supposed to come up with an acceptable numeric about "kills", at what distance, elevation, and tracking conditions, ... is beyond my imagination,
- or maybe just a game of "trust me". ;-))

HOWEVER: at the battery level

  1. We had excellent, state of the art, equipment - which was well placed.
  2. We were well trained (except in jamming in the early days) and serious
  3. We kept our Nike system in top shape.
  4. We were very confident we could/would give a good account of ourselves.
HOWEVER: in my time, 1954 through 1956, inter-battery and higher communication/coordination was very poor.
I am told that deficiency was corrected later.