SM-62 Snark

The Northrop SM-62 Snark was a specialized intercontinental cruise missile with a nuclear warhead operated by the US Strategic Air Command from 1958 until 1961. It takes its name from Lewis Carroll's snark, a very ambitious fictional monster with very little sense of humor.

Design and development

The Snark was developed to offer a nuclear deterrence to the Soviet Union at a time when ICBMs were still in development. Work on the project began in 1946. Initially there were two missiles - a subsonic design (the MX775A Snark) and a supersonic design (the MX775B Boojum),. Budget reductions threatened the project in its first year, but the intervention of Jack Northrop and Carl Spaatz saved the project. Despite this, funding was low and the program was dogged by requirement changes. The expected due date of 1953 passed with the design still in testing and SAC was becoming less enthusiastic. In 1955, Eisenhower ordered top priority to the ICBM and associated missile programs.

Despite considerable difficulties with the missile and military reservations toward it, work continued. In 1957 tests the missile had an average CEP of 17 nautical miles (31.5 km) and the most accurate test of 1958 fell 4 nautical miles (7.4 km) short. The design was also notoriously unreliable with the majority of test missiles suffering mechanical failure thousands of miles before reaching the target. The reduced operating altitude, from 150,000 to 55,000 ft (46 to 17 km), and the inability to perform evasive manoeuvres were also limiting factors.

Technical description

The jet engined 20.5 m long unmanned aircraft had a top speed of 650 mph (1,046 km/h) and a maximum range of 5,500 nautical miles (10,200 km). The complex stellar navigation guidance system gave a claimed CEP of 8,000 ft (2.4 km).

The Snark was an air-breathing design, launched from a light platform by two rocket booster engines. It switched to an internal jet engine for the remainder of its flight. The jet was a Pratt and Whitney J57, the first 10,000 lbf (44 kN) thrust design, also used in the early B-52 and the F-100. Lacking a horizontal tail, the missile used elevons as its primary flight control surfaces, and flew an unusual nose high aspect during level flight. During the final phase of flight the nuclear warhead detached and followed a ballistic trajectory to the target. The missile then became unflyable, and would crash.

One of the more advanced features of the Snark was its ability to fly missions of up to 11 hours and return for a landing. If the Snark did not detach its warhead, the missile could be flown repeatedly. Lacking landing gear, it was necessary for the Snark to skid to a stop on a flat, level surface.

Operational history

In January 1958 the Strategic Air Command began accepting delivery of operational missiles to Patrick AFB in Florida for training and in 1959 the 702nd Strategic Missile Wing was formed. Multiple launch failures led to the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Canaveral being described as "Snark infested waters."

On 27 May, 1959, Presque Isle AFB in Maine, the only Snark base, received its first operational missile. Ten months later, on March 18, 1960, a Snark officially went on alert status. Thirty known deployed." Gibson, James N. Nuclear Weapons of the United States - An Illustrated History . Atglen, Pennsylvania.: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1996, Library of Congress card no. 96-67282, ISBN 0-7643-0063-6, page 151. The 702nd was not declared fully operational until February 1961. In March 1961, President Kennedy declared the Snark "obsolete and of marginal military value" and on 25 June, 1961 the 702nd was deactivated.



Below is a list of museums which have a Snark missile in their collection:

(The above list is incomplete, please help us complete this list)


General characteristics

  • Length: 67 ft 2 in (20.47 m)
  • Wingspan: 42 ft 3 in (12.88 m)
  • Wing area: ft² (m²)
  • Weight: 48,147 lb (21,839 kg) without booster, 60,000 (27,200 kg) with booster
  • Powerplant:Pratt & Whitney J57 jet engine, 10,500 lbf (46.7 kN) thrust; 2 Aerojet-General solid-propellant rocket boosters, 130,000 lbf (580 kN) thrust


  • Maximum speed: 565 knots (1,050 km/h)
  • Combat range: 5,497 nmiles (10,180 km)
  • Service ceiling: 50,250 ft (15,320 m)
  • Rate of climb: ft/min (m/min)
  • Wing loading: lb/ft² (kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.218:1


  • Nuclear warhead

See also


External links

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