Developed during the first decade of the Cold War to combat possible Soviet aircraft the Nike System was the world's first successful, widely-deployed, guided surface-to-air missile system. It was named "Nike" for the mythical Greek Goddess of Victory. Nike Ajax was a slender, two-stage guided missile powered by a liquid-fueled motor. The Ajax was blasted off of its launcher by means of a jettisonable solid rocket booster which fired for about 3 seconds, accelerating the missile with a power of 25 times the force of gravity.
The Nike Ajax, known as the "MIM-3A" Identification, was armed with three individual high-explosive, fragmentation type warheads located at the front, center and rear of the missile body. Although consideration was given to arming the Ajax with nuclear warheads, this project was cancelled in favor of developing a new type of missile. While the Ajax was being deployed across the nation, the new missile know as "Nike-B" and later as Nike "Hercules" had already begun to be developed.
The basic statistics of the Ajax Missile are as follows:
Length: 21 feet (body), 13 feet (booster), 33 feet (total)
Weight: 1,050 pounds (body), 1,200 pounds (booster), 2,260 pounds (total)
Speed: 2.3 Mach (1,900 mph)
Range: 26 miles
Payload: 300 pounds
Cost: $20,000 in 1958.