Air Defense History: The MIM-23 HAWK missile
The Raytheon MIM-23 HAWK is an American medium range surface-to-air missile. As a backronym, some consider HAWK to stand for Homing All the Way Killer. The HAWK was initially designed to destroy aircraft and was later adapted to destroy other missiles in flight. The missile entered service in 1960, and a program of extensive upgrades has kept it from becoming obsolete. It was superseded by the MIM-104 Patriot in United States Army service by 1994. It was finally phased out of US service in 2002, the last users, the US Marine Corps replacing it with the man-portable ir-guided visual range FIM-92 Stinger. The missile was also produced outside the US in Western Europe and Japan.
MIM-23 Hawk, Wikipeida
Forgotten by the general public, Hawk was one of two missile systems the US Army had in Europe to stop the Soviet Air Force. Semi-Active radar homing would guide the missile to it target. The missile received signals from a ground based fire-control radar and used that to hit the target. Development started in 1952, by 1959 the Army had it’s first units, the Marines in 1960.
Of course the system used vacuum tubes back then. The first upgrades gave it solid-state technology. The mean-time between failure rates went from 43 hours in the 50’s, to over 300 at the turn of the century. Many other improvements happened.
The MIM-23A had a basic warhead of 54 kilograms, and over 4,000 eight gram frags. It was a giant shotgun shell against jets and helicopters. The MIM-23B I-HAWK (Improved HAWK) had a 74 kg warhead and 14,000 frags. A new motor improved performance. By 1971 all HAWKS were I-HAWKS. That’s all well and good, but that warhead is nothing if the missile can’t see it’s target.
Electronic warfare bloomed at vacuum tubes gave way to solid state. The USSR had experience jamming western propaganda broadcasts during the 50’s and 60’s. The war in Vietnam and the Arab-Israeli wars honed their expertise. As a result MIM-23 models C-M were developed all the way until 1997. There is speculation that home-on-jam was added to the D-models (the missiles would home in on a jamming aircraft, killing it). The K-M models had a bigger warhead with 30 gram frags.
The radars got upgrades to:
The original HAWK system used 4 radars: to detect (PAR and CWAR), to track (CWAR and HPIR) and to engage (HPIR and ROR) targets. As the system was upgraded the functionality of some of the radars was merged. The final iteration of the system consists of only 2 radars, an enhanced phased array search radar and an engagement radar (HPIR).
The Army’s goal was to reduce the maintenance of the system. Having 4 radars means that you have four times the things that can go wrong in the field. As the system improved, the radars got better. The last radars were the AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel and a high power illuminator.
HAWK fought several battles in the Cold War. It was in Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis, with 304 missiles defending American Soil. The Arab-Israeli was saw:
an Israeli MIM-23A shot down a damaged Israeli Dassault MD.450 that was in danger of crashing into the Negev Nuclear Research Center near Dimona, the first combat firing of the HAWK, and it’s first kill. During the 1969 War of Attrition, HAWK batteries had shot down between 8 and 12 Arab aircraft . During the 1973 Yom Kippur war, 75 Israeli missiles wdowned between 12 and 24 aircraft. Kuwait shot down one Iranian F-5 during the Iran-Iraq war. The French army in Chad shot down a Libyan Tu-22B in 1987. During Desert Storm, US Army and Marine HAWK units defended Saudi Arabia. White Stands Missile range tested an anti-Scud variant of the missile as the 1990’s came to a close.
All in all HAWK was used by the following: Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Jordan, South Korea, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain,
Sweden, Republic of China (Taiwan), Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. Training for the missile was done at Fort Bliss. Like Nike, many soldiers from other nations would come to Fort Bliss to train on HAWK. The German Air Force even had a school at Bliss to train their officers.
The system has been phased out of U.S. service for some time. Most NATO countries don’t have it anymore, but countries like Japan, UAE and Israel still use it. Today the Army uses the Avenger system.
- Redstone Arsenal Complex Chronology:
The Redstone Arsenal Era, 1950-55, has a video of Hawk being fired.
- The Missiles of Key West: The Unofficial Web site of
6th Bn (HAWK) 65th Arty (ADA) and 1st Bn (HAWK) 65th Arty (ADA)
- HAWK as TMD Federation of American scientists.
- ARMY AIR DEFENSE OPERATIONS, SUBCOURSE NO. AD0700 US Army Air Defense Artillery School. Declassified document at Globalsecurity.org.
- Gulf War: Arabian Knights
Unit-by-Unit Narratives of Air Defense Artillery Units in Operation Desert Storm (Air Defense Artillery Online)
- Missile Defense Agency: HAWK Images
- Fun Fact: Tankers have Elvis, HAWK has actor Doug Sheehan of Knots Landing and Sabrina The Teenage Witch.