Nike Zeus went into full scale development once McElroy approved the decision for its deployment in 1958. Over the next couple of years, the Army tried to get approval for production funding but failed to do so. There were a number of reasons for this failure. The military was at this time investing large amounts into offensive nuclear weapons. Atlas and Titan were being deployed, Polaris along with their submarines were being built while Minuteman was starting development. All of these programs were consuming a lot of dollars, and little could be spared to provide a defence against the equivalent Soviet weapons.
In addition to the dollar problem there were also concerns over the technical feasibility of Nike Zeus. The ability to acquire the target RV, and to even discriminate between a RV and decoys was a concern. Also, it was felt that the system could be easily saturated due to the mechanical radars, thus rendering the entire system ineffective. The effects of nuclear explosions and the resulting electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) could render the huge radars required for the Nike Zeus system utterly useless. The other major concern for Nike Zeus was its accuracy and the fact that the TTR and MTR radars could only perform one intercept at a time.
With Eisenhower departing the White House, and being replaced with Kennedy, the funding situation for Nike Zeus did not improve. Although funding was made available in 1961, it was not spent, and no further funding was provided in 1962 and 1963. Kennedy and his Defence Secretary (McNamara) both did not like Nike Zeus and argued against it. The Army presented Nike Zeus as a system that could protect the US, however, Kennedy and McNamara felt that although the system was viable against missiles that existed at that time, it could not cope with any future missile threats and so was not worth implementing.
In 1963, Project Defender from AARPA presented a look at the future of radar, data processing and rocket propulsion. With new improved technologies in these areas, AARPA felt that a much improved ABM could be developed. (AARPA was already in the process of showing the feasibility of phased array radars) As a result, AARPA presented a number of options. NZ-0 was the current Nike Zeus system, NZ-1 was the same as NZ-0 but had a higher velocity missile for endoatmospheric interceptions, NZ-2 had a faster missile and phased arrays, while NX used faster missiles, phased array radars and most importantly, faster computers. NX was known as Nike-X and was the preferred option. Nike Zeus was dead, and Nike-X was born. Needless to say, the Army was not happy.
Last Modified: 23-Oct-1999