May 19, 1999
The Rapid City Journal grants permission for use of 1958-59 news stories on Nike sites on private web pages.
Peggy Sagen, Editor
NIKE GUIDED MISSILES are very expensive pieces of military hardware, costing $20,000 each for the Ajax version which is used to defend Ellsworth Air Force Base. The cost stems from an intricate and delicate plumbing, guidance and electronics system used to fly and direct the missile. However, it also takes a highly skilled team of technicians to maintain and fire a Nike. Above, a team from the Second Missile Battalion in Rapid City is assemblying and checking a missile at the Red Canyon firing range in New Mexico. It takes about eight hours to assemble a missile that has been unpacked from a shipping crate.
(Editor's Note: This is the last in a series of articles by Ed Niciejewski, who attended the firing of Nike guided missiles last week in New Mexico).
Nike guided missiles are fired only at Red Canyon during peace time – regulations forbid practice shots at the defense sites.
One each year Nike units in the United States and abroad go to the Red Canyon range for annual service practice and fire three missiles per battery.
Actually, a person wouldn't need all the money it costs to fire Nikes for one year at Red Canyon to retire in style. With wise investments and only moderately "high" living he could do very well on the dollars spent in a two week period.
First, there were 12 Nike-Ajax missiles fire, each costing an estimated $20,000. That amount would buy a lot of artillery shells, but then it's like comparing a gnat with a bulldozer.
Twelve Nikes at $20,000 each add up to nearly a quarter million dollars. Radio controlled Artillery Targets (RCATs) at which the missiles fired reportedly cost $3,100 each. A conservative estimate, very conservative, is at least 100 drones were launched during the two week period. Assuming half of them were salvaged, that's $155,000 added to the bill.
Transportation to the site by chartered aircraft, payroll, food, housing and cost
of maintaining the missile firing grounds would easily bost the total two-week cost
to more than $500,000.
If this proves anything it is that defense takes a lot of money but, few if any persons would advocate that we stop guarding our nation.
Should an enemy attack ever occur at EAFB, I for one would feel much safer knowing the Nikes are there to help prevent enemy aircraft of missiles from striking Rapid City or the base. If any person doubts that Nike will play a strong supporting role in preventing enemy destruction, he should spend a week at Red Canyon watching the lethal missiles perform. It is also comforting to know that newer developments will outdo by far the performance of the present Nike-Ajax missiles poised at Rapid City.
Another fact that has a bearing on the cost of firing Nike at Red Canyon should be brought out. None of the Nikes fired during annual service practice is new, each has been brought to New Mexico from an operational unit where it has been on firing racks for several years.
To assure perfect operation and prevent deterioration of chemicals used in the missiles, the Army limits the time each can be kept inactive. That the missiles were perfectly operational was adequately proved by the Second Missile Battalion which fired a nearly-perfect score. However, the chance that a Nike mighth become non-operational is one that the Army cannot afford to take.
And is there anyone who could say: "Let's have the missilemen practice but never shoot?" It would be like flying an air plane without leaving the ground.