US Missile Systems Chronology

January 1945 At the request of the Army Ordnance Department, Bell Telephone Laboratories begins work on an antiaircraft missile that later becomes Nike.
January 1946 Wernher von Braun and 127 German missile experts are brought to the United States under Operation PAPERCLIP.
April 1946 Convair awarded the MX-774 project, predecessor to the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
October 1946 First Nike test flights.
July 1947 MX-774 project canceled.
September 1947 National Security Act creates the Department of Defense and makes the Air Force a separate service.
March 1948 At the Key West Conference, the services argue over roles and missions. The Air Force is given primary responsibility for continental air defense.
April 1948 The Soviets begin their blockade of West Berlin; it lasts for 321 days.
April 1949 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) established.
June 1949 The Army transfers von Braun and the Ordnance Research and Development Division SubOffice (Rocket) from Fort Bliss, Texas, to Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama. The move to Redstone is completed in 1950.
August 1949 The Soviet Union explodes an atomic bomb. This provides impetus for the United States to develop a hydrogen bomb, the Army to build antiaircraft emplacements around strategic locations, and leads to a reappraisal of United States national security policy.
March 1950 The Joint Chiefs of Staff give the Air Force sole responsibility for developing long-range "strategic" missiles.
October 1950 The People's Republic of China established.
April 1950 NSC 68 identifies the Soviet Union as a serious military threat and prompts the United States to launch a massive rearmament program.
June 1950 Korean War begins.
July 1950 Army forms Anti-Aircraft Command (ARAACOM).
January 1951 The Air Force awards Convair the MX-1593 project that later evolves into the Atlas ICBM.
November 1951 Nike I (Ajax) intercepts target drone.
May 1952 The Army orders Bell Laboratories to investigate the feasibility of arming the Nike I, Ajax, with an atomic warhead.
November 1952 The United States explodes its first experimental hydrogen bomb.
February 1953 Trevor Gardner appointed Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force for Research and Development.
February 1953 Bell Laboratories begins work on Nike B (Hercules).
June 1953 Armistice ends the Korean War.
August 1953 The Soviet Union detonates an operational hydrogen bomb.
October 1953 The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Panel completes its report.
February 1954 The Teapot Committee submits its recommendations.
February 1954 The United States detonates an operational hydrogen bomb.
March 1954 Based on the recommendations of the Teapot Committee, the Air Force accelerates the Atlas program.
March 1954 First Nike Ajax battalion deployed at Fort Meade, Maryland.
May 1954 The Air Force makes Atlas its highest research and development (R&D) priority.
July 1954 The Air Force establishes the Western Development Division near Los Angeles, California and names Brig. Gen. Bernard Schriever its first commanding officer.
July 1954 President Eisenhower asks James Killian to lead a study to determine if the nation is vulnerable to a surprise attack.
February 1955 Killian Report completed.
May 1955 The Air Force begins developing the Titan ICBM.
July 1955 At the Aviation Day celebration in Moscow, the Soviets fly the same 10 Bison bombers over the reviewing stand 6 times, duping the American observers into exaggerating the capabilities of the Soviet Air Force. Immediately the United States becomes concerned over the so-called "bomber gap."
September 1955 President Eisenhower designates the ICBM program the nation's top R&D priority.
September 1955 The Air Force selects the Glenn L. Martin Company to build Titan.
November 1955 Gillette Procedures implemented.
November 1955 The Secretary of Defense authorizes the Air Force and the Army to develop the Thor and Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs).
December 1955 The Air Force selects the Douglas Aircraft Company to build the Thor IRBM.
January 1956 The Department of Defense gives the IRBM the same development priority as the ICBM.
February 1956 The Army Ballistic Missile Agency established at the Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama.
June 1956 First U-2 reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union.
November 1956 Secretary of Defense gives the Air Force responsibility for all missiles with a range over 200 miles.
December 1956 The Navy begins work on the Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) program.
August 1957 The Soviet Union announces its first successful ICBM test flight.
October 1957 The Soviet Union launches Sputnik, the world's first man-made satellite.
November 1957 The Soviet Union launches Sputnik II.
December 1957 The Gaither report credits the Soviet Union with a substantial lead in long-range ballistic missiles and gives rise to the so-called "missile gap."
January 1958 An Army Redstone missile carries the first U.S. satellite into orbit.
June 1958 The first Nike Hercules batteries are deployed around New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
February 1959 The Air Force begins limited R&D on the solid fuel Minuteman ICBM.
June 1959 The first Thor IRBMs are deployed in Great Britain.
September 1959 The Department of Defense determines that the Air Force will have responsibility for all military space operations, with the exception of Navy's Polaris program.
September 1959 The Air Force selects the Boeing Airplane Company as the Minuteman assembly and test contractor.
October 1959 First BOMARC antiaircraft missile squadron activated at McGuire Air Force Base (AFB), New Jersey,
October 1959 The Air Force begins developing Titan II.
December 1959 The first Atlas ICBMs are placed on operational alert at Vandenberg AFB, California.
May 1960 The Soviets shoot down a U.S. U-2 reconnaissance aircraft deep within Soviet airspace.
June 1960 The Army Air Defense Command's (ARADCOM) air defense network includes 88 Nike Hercules and 174 Nike Ajax batteries.
July 1960 The first Polaris submarine becomes operational.
August 1960 The Army Corps of Engineers Ballistic Missile Construction Office (CEBMCO) established.
December 1960 The first Jupiter IRBM launch emplacement at Gioia Dell Colle Air Base, Italy, becomes operational.
February 1961 The first Jupiter launch emplacement at Cigli Air Base, Turkey, placed on operational alert.
May 1962 First Titan I squadron becomes operational at Lowry AFB, Colorado.
July 1962 A Nike Zeus missile fired from the Kwajalein Test Site, Marshall Islands, intercepts an ICBM fired from Vandenberg AFB, California.
October 1962 First 10 Minuteman missiles are placed on operational alert at Malmstrom AFB, Montana.
October 1962 The United States detects Soviet IRBMs in Cuba and establishes an air and naval blockade of the island. After the Soviets remove the missiles, the blockade is lifted on November 21, 1962.
March 1963 First Titan II squadron becomes operational at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona.
October 1963 The Air Force begins developing the Minuteman II.
December 1963 All Thor missiles in Great Britain deactivated. The Jupiter IRBMs based in Italy and Turkey were withdrawn at the same time.
October 1964 The People's Republic of China explodes an atomic bomb.
March 1965 First U.S. combat troops sent to South Vietnam.
June 1965 The last Atlas ICBMs are taken off operational alert.
June 1965 Replacement of Titan I by Titan II completed.
April 1966 The First Minuteman II squadron becomes operational.
September 1967 The United States begins construction of the Sentinel Antiballistic Missile (ABM) system; the first site is outside of Boston.
March 1969 Nixon administration curtails the ABM program. The new Safeguard program will shield the ICBM sites at Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota, and Malmstrom AFB, Montana.
December 1970 The first Minuteman III squadron becomes operational at Minot APB, North Dakota.
April 1972 The Air Force begins development of the MX missile, later renamed the Peacekeeper.
May 1972 The ABM treaty limits the number of ABM sites that could be built. Consequently, the site at Malmstrom is abandoned and work at the Grand Forks site continues.
October 1972 The last three BOMARC antiaircraft missile squadrons are deactivated.
April 1975 The United States evacuates its embassy in Saigon as North Vietnamese forces encircle the city.
October 1975 The Army activates the Safeguard site at Grand Forks, North Dakota.
February 1976 The Army begins to deactivate the Safeguard site at Grand Forks.
June 1979 SALT II agreement to limit long-range missiles and bombers signed by President Carter and General Secretary Brezhnev. It was never ratified by congress.
July 1979 The Army deactivates its last Nike Hercules batteries.
December 1986 Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.
December 1986 First Peacekeeper squadron becomes operational at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming.
August 1987 The Air Force deactivates the last Titan II missile squadron.
December 1987 The United States and Soviet Union sign the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, eliminating all intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
February 1989 Soviet Union withdraws its forces from Afghanistan.
November 1989 Berlin Wall falls.
July 1991 In signing the START treaty (START I> the United States and the Soviet Union agree to reduce their respective nuclear arsenals to 6,000 warheads.
September 1991 Indicative of decreasing tensions, President Bush orders the Air Force to remove all of its Minuteman IIs from operational alert.
December 1991 Gorbachev resigns as Soviet President and dissolves the Soviet Union.
January 1993 In signing START II, the United States and Soviet Union further reduce their nuclear stockpiles to 3,500 warheads each. The treaty remains to be implemented.
December 1993 The Air Force begins destroying Minuteman II silos to comply with the provisions of START I.