Long-range test flights over the Atlantic Ocean started in Florida and ended 5,000 miles away at Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. Snarks flew in a slightly nose-up attitude. (U.S. Air Force photo)
A Snark test launch at Cape Canaveral, Fla., in 1956. There were 97 such launches at the Cape through 1960. Several mishaps during the test program—though they were valuable learning experiences—caused some to label Florida’s coast as “Snark infested waters.” (U.S. Air Force photo)
The Snark’s powerful solid-rocket boosters burned for four seconds, bringing the missile’s speed up to about 300 mph, then the empty booster casings dropped away as the jet engine took over. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The first class of Snark “Missileairmen” graduated on Dec. 17, 1957. Left to right, SSgt. Maynard Denny (an honor student in that class); Lt. Col. Richard Beck, commander of the newly formed 556th Strategic Missile Squadron; Maj. Gen. Alfred Kalberer, deputy commander of the Fifteenth Air Force; and Whitley Collins, president of Northrop Aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The Snark’s “nose release manuever” at engine cut-off permitted the nuclear warhead to continue on a ballistic (unpowered, unguided) path as the engine and guidance section broke away. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The Snark, originally designated as the B-62, was an interim-type, air-breathing intercontinental weapon produced during the period when intercontinental ballistic missiles were still being perfected. It carried a nuclear warhead and was launched from a mobile platform by two booster rocket engines. These propelled the Snark to flying speed in four seconds, at which time they were jettisoned and the missile continued in flight, powered by its internal jet engine. The missile and its ground support equipment could be lifted by an aircraft, such as the C-124, and could be set up and ready for launch soon after arrival at a site.
The Snark's flight path was controlled by internal celestial guidance. When the missile arrived over its target, the nose section containing the warhead separated from the fuselage and fell in a trajectory onto the target. The rest of the Snark, now useless, was destroyed on impact with the ground.
The first Snark operational unit was activated by the Strategic Air Command in 1958 at Presque Isle Air Force Base, Maine. With the availability of large numbers of ballistic missiles in the early 1960s, the Snark became obsolete and was removed from service. No Snark was ever used in actual combat.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Armament: Nuclear Warhead Engines:Pratt & Whitney J57 jet engine of 10,500 lbs. thrust and two Aerojet-General solid-propellant booster rockets of over 130,000 lbs. thrust each Maximum speed: 650 mph / 565 knots Range: 6,325 statute miles / 5,497 nautical miles Service ceiling: 50,250 ft. Span: 42 ft. 3 in. Length: 67 ft. 2 in. Weight: 48,147 lbs. without boosters