Fourth missile added to National Museum of the U.S. Air Force gallery
By Rob Bardua, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
/ Published September 20, 2006
DAYTON, Ohio -- A product of the early Cold War race used to deploy nuclear armed missiles before the Soviets was recently added to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force's Missile and Space Gallery.
Standing nearly 65 feet tall, the "Thor" intermediate range ballistic missile was the fourth of ten missiles to be assembled in the gallery.
As an intermediate range ballistic missile, the Thor had a range of about 1,500 miles and was based in Europe, while the U.S. Air Force developed long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles as a top national priority.
After about 15 minutes of preparation from its above-ground shelter, the one-stage rocket powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene, could reach its target in less than 20 minutes of flight time.
According to the museum director, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Charles D. Metcalf, the Thor represents a significant piece of the Cold War story and will allow Museum visitors to better understand our country's response to the kind of threat we once faced.
"The Thor is an important addition to the museum's Missile and Space Gallery," said General Metcalf. "The missile allows us to display to the public the kind of scientific technology that played an instrumental role in protecting our nation during the Cold War."
The Thor was developed quickly in just over three years beginning in 1956. Its rapid design and deployment resulted from having much in common with the Atlas ICBM, which was then still in the planning stages. Although Thor's airframe was new, its engine, guidance, and warhead all came from the Atlas program.
After three failed test flights, Thor's first fully successful flight took place in September 1957. The following month, the USSR launched its Sputnik satellite, proving Soviet rocket capability and generating much anxiety in the U.S., and President Dwight Eisenhower rushed the Thor into production as a result.
Great Britain agreed to host four IRBM bases, and Thors were operational in England from June 1959 to August 1963. Royal Air Force crews operated the missiles, but USAF personnel controlled their nuclear warheads.
In addition to its successful space launch role, Thor also was used as a nuclear atmospheric test vehicle and an anti-satellite weapon.
For more information on the Thor and other missiles at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, please visit http://www.wpafb.af.mil/museum or call (937) 255-3286, ext. 302.
The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located on Springfield Pike, six miles northeast of downtown Dayton. It is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day). Admission and parking are free.
NOTE TO MEDIA: For more information, contact the National Museum of the United States Air Force Public Affairs Division at (937) 255-4704, ext. 330.