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AT&T Archives: Nike Zeus Missile System

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Uploaded on Jul 15, 2011

See more from the AT&T Archives at http://techchannel.att.com/archives

This film showed how industry and the armed forces cooperated in research and development aimed toward improving America's defense facilities, and the key role played by the Bell System in the development of the U.S.'s anti-missile missile system.

The film presents the story of the U.S. Army's Nike Zeus anti-missile missile system, a system designed to "protect our cities and defense installations against intercontinental ballistic missiles." It describes the important role played by the Bell System in the development of this missile system through the research of Bell Laboratories and through the work of Western Electric as the prime contractor. In narration and on-the-spot filming, the piece traces the Nike missile development program from its early beginnings with the Nike Ajax and the Nike Hercules, which were designed to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft. We see how Nike Zeus, the last member (circa 1961) of the Nike missile family detected, tracked, intercepted and finally was able to destroy enemy ICBMs traveling at speeds of 15,000 miles per hour.

Soviet development of better ICBMs decreased the value of the Nike air defense system soon after this film was made. The Nike Zeus system was examined and tested for a few years as an anti-satellite weapon, but in the end it was not used.

So what happened to the Nike systems? The program was included in SALT I discussions from 1969 to 1972. As a result, most Nike sites in the United States were deactivated by 1974. Only a few remained active through the 1970s in a coastal air defense role.

Today, anti-missile defense in the United States primarily rests on the shoulders of the Patriot system. No current systems are able to intercept contemporary ICBMs.

Produced by Transfilm-Caravel, Inc.

Footage courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ

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