MGM-1 Matador

The Martin MGM-1 Matador was the first operational surface-to-surface cruise missile designed and built by the United States. It was developed after World War II, drawing upon their wartime experience with creating the Republic-Ford JB-2, a copy of the German V-1. The Matador was similar in concept to the V-1, but it included a radio command that allowed in-flight course corrections. This allowed accuracy to be maintained over greatly extended ranges of just under 1000 km. To allow these ranges, the Matador was powered by a small turbojet engine in place of the V-1's much less efficient pulsejet.

Martin MGM-1 Matador
TypeSurface-to-surface cruise missile
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1952 - 1962
Production history
ManufacturerGlenn L. Martin Company
No. built1,200[1]
Mass12,000 lb
Length39 ft 6 in
Diameter4 ft 6 in
WarheadNuclear W-5 (50 kt yield)[1][2]

Engine4,600 lbf (20,000 N) thrust Allison J33-A-37 Turbojet sustainer engine; 55,000 lb (25,000 kg) thrust Aerojet General solid fuel rocket, 2 s burn
Wingspan28 ft 7 in
250 mi (400 km) (TM-61A)[1]
620 mi (1,000 km) (TM-61C)[1]
Flight altitude35,000–43,000 ft (11,000–13,000 m)[1][3]
Speed650 mph (1,050 km/h; Mach 0.85)[1]
(supersonic terminal dive)[3][4]
"A" Radar directed radio command guidance system; "C" same plus Shanicle
Accuracy2,700–1,600 ft (820–490 m) CEP[3]
Transporter erector launcher

Matador was armed with the W5 nuclear warhead, essentially an improved version of the Fat Man design that was lighter and had a smaller cross section. A single US Air Force group, 1st Pilotless Bomber Squadron, was armed with the weapon, keeping them on alert with a six-minute launch time. It could be easily retargeted, unlike weapons using inertial guidance systems. Accuracy at maximum range was about 1 mile (1.6 km), which allowed it to be used against any large target like troop concentrations or armored spearheads.

First flown in 1949, Matador entered service in 1952 and left service in 1962. Matador carried several designations during its lifetime, originally known under the War Department's system as SSM-A-1. By the time it was introduced to service, the Air Force had been created, and they referred to them as bombers and assigned it the B-61 designation. It was later re-designated TM-61, for "tactical missile", and finally MGM-1 when the US Department of Defense introduced the tri-service missile and drone designation system in 1963.


The first flight of Matador, model XSSM-A-1, occurred at the White Sands Missile Range on 20 January 1949. The first two production B-61 Matador missiles arrived at Eglin AFB, Florida, in September 1953, under the control of the 6555th Guided Missile Squadron, for climatic testing, although instrumentation and pre-test check-outs kept the actual cold-weather tests from beginning until November.[5] At the end of 1953 the first squadron was operational, but not deployed until 1954, as the 1st Pilotless Bomber Squadron, Bitburg Air Base, Germany with the B-61A armed with the W5 nuclear warhead. The missile was capable of carrying a 2000-pound conventional warhead, but it is unknown if any of these were actually deployed. By the late 1950s at least, all Matadors carried the nuclear warhead.

The last Matadors were removed from active service in 1962, with a total of 1200 missiles produced. At that time, they were deployed in squadrons at Bitburg AB, West Germany, in Tainan, Taiwan, and in various locations in South Korea. The specific maintenance training schools were in at the Glenn L. Martin factory and Lowry AFB, both in Denver Colorado, while the Launch Training was at Orlando AFB, Florida (later transferred to the US Navy and renamed NTC Orlando) and Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida. When the Tainan squadrons were inactivated, the airframes were made non-flyable by chopping out the attachment points in the bulkheads of the fuselage sections with axes, and were sold locally as scrap after having the warheads removed. Most of the support vehicles, consisting mainly of 2½ and 5-ton trucks, were disposed of on the local market. Presumably, the other sites similarly disposed of their missiles and equipment.


The missile was piloted via radio link and tracked via a network of ground-based AN/MSQ-1 radar stations. This guidance system, with its line-of-sight communications, limited the guided range to about 400 km (250 mi). As with all radio communications it was also prone to enemy radio jamming. While in theory the missile could be "handed off" in flight from one guidance station to the next, in practice that was rarely successful, and deployed missiles did not attempt it.

In 1954, the USAF started to develop the YTM-61C version which was equipped with the new Shanicle (Short Range Navigation Vehicle) guidance system. It became operational in 1957 and used ground-based microwave emitters to generate hyperbolic grids for range and azimuth, which were used by the missile guidance system to navigate. Now the guided range could be extended to the maximum flight range of the missile, about 620 miles (1,000 km). Anecdotal evidence indicated that the Shanicle system was very accurate, with stories of one missile flying into the ground in the same crater left by a previous missile during an early exercise in North Africa. These may or may not be true, but in any case the Shanicle system was soon discontinued on operational missiles. By the late 1950s, all were using the MSQ-1 (called "MisCue-1" by the crews) ground-based guidance system.

A unique identifying feature of the TM-61C variant was the raised rear section of the fuselage above the jet exhaust, called the "doghouse" by those who were assigned to the missile squadrons. This had originally housed the Shanicle electronics, but was retained when those systems were removed. The "doghouse" had no access panels or doors and was an aerodynamic structural component added to TM-61C and TM-76A to prevent missile "shudder" and breakup during terminal dive. It contained no functional components. The operational Matadors were zinc chromate green in their final versions, but this doghouse was quite often left natural aluminum, as were the wings and tail group.

The MSQ guidance vans required to guide the Matador were removed from Germany after September 1962 when the last Matador operational units were deactivated.[4]

Launch crew

The Matador launch crew consisted of eleven members. One Launch Officer, who was usually a 1st lieutenant (O-2) or a junior captain (O-3), one Crew Chief, usually a technical sergeant (E-6), two Warhead techs, two Flight Control Systems techs, two Guidance techs, two Airframe and Engine techs—one of whom doubled as the crane operator and the other as the launcher tech, and one Booster Rocket tech. Since the missile was at least theoretically "mobile", all launch equipment was mounted on trucks and trailers. As a result, in addition to their primary duties, most crew members were trained as and doubled as drivers. All enlisted members other than the Crew Chief were usually airman second class (E-3) or airman (E-2) on their first enlistment, though there were sometimes staff sergeants (E-5) or even technical sergeants who had already served multiple enlistments. In addition, there were similarly-sized guidance crews on remote sites, and a maintenance staff for the missiles, the guidance equipment, and the vehicles. Because of the number of people required to support the missile, a "mobile" Matador squadron with five launch crews could grow quite cumbersome. As a result, the squadrons were soon deployed at fixed sites and the idea of a mobile missile was abandoned.

An individual Matador missile was shipped from the Martin plant to its unit in seven wooden crates.[6] A single Matador missile required many vehicles to move it and its associated support equipment. There was a Transport Vehicle, which was a short wheelbase semi-trailer which carried the missile with the wings removed and attached alongside the fuselage, a Launcher, which was a semi-trailer more than 40 feet (12 m) long weighing more than 30,000 pounds. There was a Target Selection Van, a Warhead Van, a 60 kW diesel generator, a tug, a hydraulic unit, a mobile Blockhouse, and a truck-mounted hydraulic crane. There were several 2½ and 5 ton trucks (tractor type) to attach to and tow the launchers, Transport Vehicle, and generator. In some squadrons, each launch team had a large trailer in which it stored weapons, ammunition and supplies.

A typical missile launch site had an active, or "hot" pad on which was kept the missile most ready to launch. This pad was manned by the on-duty launch crew. According to the book, this required 15 minutes to do, but some crews could accomplish it in slightly more than 6 minutes. The site usually had a backup pad, on which was a missile which would require somewhat more effort to get it launched. This pad was manned by the standby crew, and if they were on site, could usually be ready to launch in 20–30 minutes. If there was a third pad, it may not have a missile on it at all. If one of the off-duty crews could make it to the launch site in time, they would try to get a missile onto the launcher there, and get it ready to go. Since all launch sites were within just a few minutes flying time from the potential enemy, it was unlikely that the third missile would launch, but all crews had multiple practice drills during their periods as duty and standby crews, trying to reduce the time needed to get the missiles away.

Often, these drills were accompanied by a flyover of a T-33 aircraft on which was mounted the MSQ-1 guidance system. (F-100 Super Sabres from the 36th and 50th TFWs were normally used for launch simulation exercises in Europe). This aircraft would fly over the launch pad at very low altitude and then simulate the flight profile of the missile under the control of the guidance crews. This gave the guidance crews practice controlling a missile in flight, as well as giving squadron officers some flight time.

The Matador flight profile was very simple and predictable, which no doubt contributed to its demise. When the Launch Officer pressed the two launch switches, the JATO bottle fired, accelerating the missile to 250 miles per hour in the space of two and a half seconds. At this point the JATO bottle fell away and the missile continued on a preset heading and rate of climb until it was acquired by the guidance crews and their equipment. The missile had no altitude or speed control, continuing to fly as fast as possible, climbing as the fuel load was burned off, until it reached its maximum altitude. At a point about six miles (10 km) from the intended target, the guidance crews sent the "dump" signal, which caused the missile to nose over into what was called the "terminal dive". This dive was near vertical, continuing until the missile reached the preset detonation altitude as determined by the radio altimeter, at which point the weapon exploded. Should the radio altimeter fail, a backup barometric detonator was used. Should that fail, there was an impact detonator.

As with all missiles and bombers of the day, accuracy was not good in today's terms. Anything within a mile was considered a hit. Even though the missile was classified as a "tactical" weapon, in fact it was not technically capable of hitting individual targets, so it was likely targeted at cities near which a military installation such as an airfield existed. Actual targets were classified, and kept from everyone except the actual guidance officer.

Variants and design stages

  • MX-771: Original U.S. Air Force project number.
  • SSM-A-1: Early proposed designation for operational missile. This designation was dropped before the first operational missiles were completed.
  • XSSM-A-1: First designation applied to first prototypes for development of the missile airframe.
  • YSSM-A-1: First designation applied to prototypes for development of the guidance system.
  • B-61: Operational designation proposed to supersede SSM-A-1 designation. This designation was designed to classify the missile as a pilotless bomber.
  • XB-61: Redesignation of the XSSM-A-1
  • YB-61: Redesignation of the YSSM-A-1
  • B-61A: First production version of the Matador. Principal difference from the XB-61 and YB-61 was redesign of the airframe with high wings in place of the previous mid-mounted wings.
  • TM-61A: Redesignation of the B-61A as the USAF decided to classify the Matador as a tactical missile instead of a pilotless bomber.
  • TM-61B: Significant redesign of the TM-61A, ultimately being redesignated as its own system, the TM-76 Mace.
  • TM-61C: Improved TM-61A developed as a stop-gap as the TM-61B was under development.
  • MGM-1C: Redesignation of the TM-61C in 1963 to meet new aircraft and missile designation standards adopted by the USAF. Only the TM-61C required redesignation as the TM-61A had been fully withdrawn from service and the TM-61B had been redesignated the TM-76 Mace, and ultimately received the MGM-13 designation.


 United States: The United States Air Force

Germany: Bundeswehr


Below is a list of museums with a Matador missile in their collection:

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists


  1. "MGM-1". Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles.
  2. Matador. Encyclopedia Astronautica.
  3. Matador. Federation of American Scientists.
  4. The Martin Matador and Mace Missiles
  5. Connors, S.Sgt. J. J., "Guided Missiles: Eglin Tests Matadors In Hangar", Playground News, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, 12 November 1953, Volume 8, Number 42, page 1.
  6. "Pilotless Bomber Shipped in Crates." Popular Mechanics, August 1954, p. 90.
  7. Museum of Aviation Web site Archived 10 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine

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