The 6th Missile Battalion/43rd Artillery
U.S. Army

Nike-Hercules Surface-to-air missile defense of Offutt/Lincoln Air Force Base areas
1960-1966


LI-01 Ceresco/Davey
IFC
Launcher


LI-50 Crete
IFC
Launcher


OF-10 Treynor, Iowa
OF-50 Cedar Creek

History

By 1950 the United States was beginning to gather its atomic might in the form of manned bombers (as missiles were still years away). On the other hand, defense planners realized, the Soviet Union would probably invest its nuclear interest in bombers as well. The American mainland needed an effective air defense against Soviet nuclear bombers.

The U.S. Air Force built up a large network of radar systems and data processing centers by 1960 to help protect American airspace. Its fighter planes and later BOMARC missiles were to be tasked with the "area" defense mission meaning it would destroy bombers as far away from their targets as possible. The U.S. Army meanwhile was building an effective surface-to-air missile in the form of the Nike-Ajax which would evolve into the Nike-Hercules missile. These shorter range missiles would assume the "point" defense role, meaning Nikes would be the last line of defense against bombers.

Over the 1950s, the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force argued over who should provide the "point" air defense mission of American cities and military installations. By 1960 the U.S. Army had effectively won the argument by the late 1950s. Ironically, with its BOMARC system proving to be very expensive, the U.S. Air Force asked the Army to provide a point defense not only of American cities but their crucial SAC bomber bases as well.

The 6/43rd activated in 1960 along with a number of other units nationwide to provide protection of SAC bases. With 12 missiles per site guided by multiple search, tracking and other radar system, the 6th/43rd stood as a point-defense guardian of both Lincoln and Offutt Air Force Bases until 1966. Standing a constant vigil, soldiers of the U.S. Army remained on alert ready to defend the nationally strategic area 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Nike-Hercules missile boasted a 100 mile range and could destroy aerial targets with either high explosive or nuclear warheads. It is not known, and won't likely be declassified for some time if Lincoln Nike missiles possessed nuclear warheads.  Its sophisticated tracking, guidance and maintenance needs were supported by up to one-hundred men at each site.

Each site was divided into a launching site and an Integrated Fire Control center which were both put at distances of up to one mile away from each other. This was done so missile tracking radars at the fire control center could effectively guide the Nike-Hercules launching from the launch site towards its target.

With the development of ICBMs both Nike variants became obsolete as neither could effectively defend areas from missiles. Both types were also vulnerable to the new science of electronic countermeasures, meaning attacking aircraft could jam Nike radars or confuse the missiles with shreds of cut foil called "chaff". While the Army worked to solve these problems it was decided to remove the SAC defense mission nationwide in 1966. While anti-ballistic missile development continued, the Nike-Hercules missiles were phased out as city-defenders in 1974.

Eastern Nebraska Air Defense

It was decided in the late 1950s for Army point-defense of selected SAC bomber bases and in 1959 construction began near Davey and Crete. Operational in 1960, the two Lincoln and two Offutt sites were tied together with overall air-defense management centered at Omaha Air Force Station in north Omaha. With Omaha tied into the national Semi-Automatic Ground Environment, or SAGE computer network, the Nike sites were interwoven into NORAD control.

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