Air Defense History: Talos, Terrier and the Standard Missile
At the close of WW II, the Empire of Japan sent suicide planes at US Navy ships in a desperate attempt to stop the war. While aircraft and AAA stopped many kamikaze aircraft, the Navy wanted a surefire defense against hostile aircraft.
Operation Bumblebee developed and tested US Navy ramjet missiles at the end of World War II. The Applied Physics Lab PTV-N-4 Cobra/BTV was flown in October 1945, and the program developed the operational RIM-8 Talos missile.
The Talos missile was the first US naval surface to air missile. However, due to technology at the time, it was huge. At 11.6 meters, it was 1.5 meters shorter than the Soviet MiG-15’s that is was designed to shoot down. The ships that carried the missile were: three converted Cleveland class light cruisers (USS Oklahoma City, Galveston, and Little Rock), and the converted Baltimore class heavy cruisers Albany, Chicago, Columbus and the nuclear-powered USS Long Beach. It was large, bulky and expensive, but Chicago and Long Beach shot down three Migs in Vietnam. Like Nike, there was a nuclear armed version of the missile. When the Long Beach was decommissioned in 1979, the missile was phased out.
As the 1950’s went on, the Talos was complemented by the Convair RIM-2 Terrier:
… a two-stage medium-range naval surface-to-air missile (SAM), and was among the earliest surface-to-air missiles to equip United States Navy ships. Originally, the Terrier had a launch thrust of 23 kN (5,200 lbf), and weight of 1392 kg (3,069 lb). Its original dimensions were a diameter of 340 mm, a length of 8.08 m, and a fin span of 1.59 m.
As part of a layered approach to air defense, this missile was designed to be deployed on all Navy cruisers built during the 1960s. Tested on the USS Mississippi (AG-128) ex (BB-41), and first deployed on the Boston class cruisers, USS Boston (CAG-1) and USS Canberra (CAG-2). It had a nuclear armes version (again like Nike). It was in service until the Standard missile came on line. Smaller ships even had a mini-me version, the RIM-24 Tartar.
As the cold war went on, the Standard missile was developed to replace the “three T’s” (Talos, Terrier and Tartar). Soviet bombers and fighters had evolved. This missile came in several flavors. Standard Missile 1 was a replacement for the Tartar, it even used it’s fire control system. Standard Missile 2 was developed as part of the AEGIS system. They were baptized by fire quickly:
The Standard missile one became operational in 1968. The missile was utilized by ships equipped with the Tartar Guided Missile Fire Control System. The missile saw its first combat use in the early 1970s in the Vietnam war. The Standard missile two became operational in the late 1970s and was deployed operationally with the Aegis Combat System in 1983. Both Standard one and two were used against both surface and air targets during Operation Praying Mantis. On 3 July 1988, USS Vincennes (CG-49) shot down Iran Air Flight 655, an Airbus A300B2, using two SM-2MR missiles from her forward launcher.[5
The RIM-67 Standard missile had a rocket booster. With more range it replaced the Talos missile. It could even attack surface ships:
During the Iran–Iraq War the United States had deployed Standard missiles to protect its navy as well as other ships in the Persian Gulf from Iranian attacks. According to the Iranian Air Force, its F-4 Phantom IIs were engaged by SM-2ERs but managed to evade them, with one aircraft sustaining non-fatal damage due to shrapnel.
On 18 April 1988, during Operation Praying Mantis, the USS Simpson (FFG-56) fired four RIM-66 Standard missiles and the USS Wainwright (CG-28) fired two RIM-67 Standard missiles at Joshan, an Iranian (Combattante II) Kaman-class fast attack craft. The attacks destroyed the Iranian ship’s superstructure but did not immediately sink it. (It went down later.)
The Long Beach received this missile in place of her Talos missiles. Other ships included were: Leahy class cruisers SM-1ER later SM-2ER with NTU., USS Bainbridge (CGN-25) SM-1ER later SM-2ER with NTU, Belknap class cruisers SM-1ER later SM-2ER with NTU, USS Truxtun (CGN-35) SM-1ER later SM-2ER with NTU. WHile the AEGIS system has become synonymous with the Standard, the older Terrier and Tartar ships were given the New Threat Upgrade. This system was not as fast as AEGIS in many areas, but in others it was actually better than the early versions. It bridged the gap between modern AEGIS ships and the older vessels.There was even an air launched version. During the Vietnam war, enemy surface to air missile sites were killing dozens of US aircrews. The SA-2 was the missile that was the bane of pilots over North Vietnam. Called AGM-78 STARM (STandard Anti-Radiation Missile) or Standard ARM, it was the weapon of choice for Air Force F-105F/G and the Navy’s A-6B/E. The Air Force called their aircraft “Wild Weasels” While these missiles carried the fight to the North Vietnamese, many times the aircraft would lose and be shot down. If the SA-2 site shut their radar off, the missile lost the target. The AGM-78 was replaced by the HARM in the 1980’s. Israel even had a ground launched version of this missile.
In time the AEGIS system replaced the Terrier and Tartar ships. The Standard missile would evolve to even have an Anti-Ballistic Missile variant. This was becasue of work done with Terrier and Talos. They were fired at early Army ballistic missiles.
I have a personal connection to these missiles. My father worked on a radar that used to be a Navy AN/SPG-51. He was at White Sands Missile Range. He tracked many targets, including the Space Shuttle with that old radar. The radar was retired after many years and sadly my father has passed away, but now I am carrying on the tradition. I work with Patriot in the US Army.