SAM-A-19 Plato

The SAM-A-19 Plato was an anti-ballistic missile project developed by the United States Army in the mid 1950s. Canceled before construction of prototypes was undertaken, it was replaced by the Field Army Ballistic Missile Defense System (FABMDS), which was in turn canceled in favor of the project that would result in the MIM-104 Patriot.

SAM-A-19 Plato
TypeAnti-ballistic missile
Place of originUnited States
Service history
Used byUnited States Army
Production history
DesignerSylvania Electric Products

Project Plato

Initial specifications for a mobile "Anti-Missile Missile" system for defense against ballistic missile attack were defined by the U.S. Army in 1951;[1] on 20 October 1952, the official need for such a system was designated by an Army G-4 conference, initiating Project Plato.[2]

Studies by Sylvania Electric Products in 1953 and the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory in 1954 led to the conclusion, in May 1956, that such a project was feasible;[2] Sylvania's design for the XSAM-A-19 missile was selected for development in September 1956. The XSAM-A-19 was expected to reach speeds of up to Mach 8; the issues with hypersonic control and thermodynamics were a major part of the project studies.[1]

The project was partially announced to the public in February 1958, with it being announced that "Plato" was a mobile system that would use the Nike Zeus missile;[3] in February 1959, before construction had begun on the prototype SAM-A-19 missiles, the project was canceled; the Nike Hercules surface-to-air missile would be adopted as an interim ABM.[1] As of 2003, the official histories of Project Plato were still classified.[1]


Despite the cancellation of Plato, the requirement for a definitive ABM system remained, and the Army started the Field Army Ballistic Missile Defense System project in September 1959.[4] Studies of FABMDS were run through May 1960, and proposals for the project, which was defined as being fully mobile and capable of undertaking four simultaneous intercept with a 95% probability of kill (PK); in September 1961, General Electric's submission was judged the best of the proposals.[4]

The proposed FABMDS was a large, solid-fueled missile, capable of intercepting theatre and medium-range ballistic missiles; 20 feet (6.1 m) in length with a diameter of 22 inches (560 mm), it was to be equipped with a nuclear warhead and could intercept incoming missiles at altitudes of up to 120,000 feet (37,000 m).[4] By October 1962, however, the technology available was officially deemed incapable of producing a cost-effective system;[4] in addition, the requirement had been altered to require capability for defense against aircraft, which was considered compromising to the effectiveness of the system against missile targets,[5] and the FABMDS program was canceled.[4] It was replaced by the Army Air Defense for the 1970s (AADS-70) program, which became Surface-to-Air Missile-Development (SAM-D) and eventually produced the MIM-104 Patriot missile system.[6]



  1. Parsch 2003a
  2. USACMH 1975, p. 117.
  3. ""Significant Progress" In "PLATO" Missile Announced by Department of Army - Sylvania". Brookville American. Brookville, IN. 17 February 1959. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  4. Parsch 2003b
  5. Davis 1986, p.3.
  6. Delaney 2015, p.64.


  • History of Strategic and Ballistic Missile Defense, Volume I: 1945–1955. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History. 1975. ISBN 978-1507662380.
  • Davis, W.A. Jr. (1986). Regional Security and Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missiles: Political and Technical Issues. Cambridge, MA: Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis. ISBN 9780080351759.
  • Delaney, William P. (2015). Perspectives on Defense Systems Analysis. MIT Lincoln Laboratory Series. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-02935-3.
  • Parsch, Andreas (27 February 2003). "Sylvania Electric SAM-A-19 Plato". Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 1: Early Missiles and Drones. Designation-Systems. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  • Parsch, Andreas (13 June 2003). "FABMDS". Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 4: Undesignated Vehicles. Designation-Systems. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
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