Encyclopedia Astronautica

Credit: via Andreas Parsch
American Navy long-range ramjet-powered surface-to-air missile. In service 1959-1979.

Talos was a long-range ramjet-powered naval surface-to-air missile operational with the US Navy 1959-1979. Talos had its genesis in the Bumblebee technology program, begun in 1944. First flight of a ramjet test vehicle was in 1946, and first test of the beam riding guidance system was in 1948. First Bendix Talos prototype launch was in October 1952. Development was extended as the Navy increased the requirements on the missile, with the first Talos not being deployed with the fleet until 1959. Versions included:

  • RIM-8A, initial production version, 1959.
  • RIM-8B, version of -8A equipped with a W-30 2-5 kT nuclear warhead
  • RIM-8C, version with double the range and an improved continuous-rod warhead. Operational 1960.
  • RIM-8D, version of -8C with nuclear warhead
  • RIM-8E, Unified Talos, operational 1962, with improved altitude capability, continuous-wave seeker for terminal homing, and conventional or nuclear warheads interchangeable aboard ship
  • RIM-8F, -8C's retrofitted with continuous-wave seekers
  • RIM-8G, improved beam-riding guidance, operational 1966.
  • RIM-8H, anti-radar missile, tested in 1965 and fired in Vietnam against SAM radars.
  • RIM-8J, improved semi-active radar guidance, operational 1968.
  • MQM-8G Vandal supersonic targets, surplus missiles converted after retirement from the fleet in 1974-1979.
  • Land-based Talos, development begun by the USAF as an interim weapon until their Bomarc SAM became operational. Project transferred to the Army in 1957 and dropped soon thereafter.

Talos was credited with three MiG kills at long range in Vietnam. By the 1970's the missile's guidance system was obsolete, making the missile vulnerable to jamming and the ship vulnerable to anti-radiation missiles. The ramjet could achieve great range, but was subject to flameouts and couldn't make sharp maneuvers. Talos was retired in 1974-1979 and replaced by new-technology Standard-ER solid propellant missiles.

The missile used a solid-propellant first stage to bring the missile to ramjet ignition speed, after which the ramjet took over and powered the missile continuously until intercept. The missile navigated within a radio beam projected by the launch ship toward the target, with the missile's own semi-active radar taking over for terminal homing on the target aircraft. The terminal homing, with its distinctive small antennas around the ramjet inlet, was not used on the nuclear versions.

Launch data is: incomplete. Recurring Price $: 0.386 million. Flyaway Unit Cost $: 0.386 million. Maximum range: 311 km (193 mi). Number Standard Warheads: 1. Standard warhead: W30. Warhead yield: 4.70 KT. Boost Propulsion: Solid rocket. Maximum speed: 3,950 kph (2,450 mph). Initial Operational Capability: 1959. Total Production Built: 1483. Floor: 300 m (980 ft). Surveillance Radar: SP-56/C. Tracking Radar: SPG-49.

Historical Essay © Andreas Parsch

Bendix SAM-N-6-IM-70-RIM-8 Talos

The Talos long-range surface-to-air missile was the ultimate result of the U.S. Navy's Bumblebee program, which also led to the SAM-N-7-RIM-2 Terrier and RIM-24 Tartar missiles.

Bumblebee was begun in 1944 with the goal to create a ramjet-powered anti-aircraft missile. The initial development was done by the Applied Physics Lab of the John Hopkins University, and APL started to fly the PTV-N-4 Cobra ramjet test vehicle (a.k.a. Burner Test Vehicle, BTV) in 1946. The Talos was to have a primary beam-riding guidance system, and in 1948, supersonic beam-riding was demonstrated with the CTV-N-8 STV (Supersonic Test Vehicle). These tests proved very promising, and STV was actually developed into a tactical missile of its own, the SAM-N-7-RIM-2 Terrier medium-range SAM. The final Talos test vehicle was the RTV-N-6 XPM (Experimental Prototype Missile), which first flew in 1951 as the RTV-N-6a3. By that time, the Talos SAM had been assigned the designation SAM-N-6 by the Navy. The first full Talos prototype (XSAM-N-6) flew in October 1952, and later that year, the first successful intercept was made by a RTV-N-6a4 test vehicle. Because the required missile performance was increased several times during development, the Talos SAM did not become fully operational until 1959, almost a decade later than originally planned. Bendix became prime contractor for Talos production.

The first operational Talos was designated SAM-N-6b. I haven't found any evidence of a SAM-N-6a designation, but this was probably assigned to some interim configuration during the lengthy development phase. The SAM-N-6b used a solid-fueled rocket booster and a Bendix ramjet for sustained flight. Talos was guided to its target by beam-riding, and used semi-active pulse-radar guidance for terminal homing. The characteristical small antennas around the nose of the Talos missile were the receivers for the SARH system. Talos missiles without these antennas were either training rounds, or nuclear armed missiles, which didn't use terminal homing. SAM-N-6b missiles had conventional HE warheads. The beam-riding guidance enabled the Talos to attack enemy aircraft from above, which could be an unpleasant surprise to pilots who had been trained to expect SAMs from below.

The SAM-N-6bW was identical to the SAM-N-6b, except for the W-30 nuclear warhead (2 - 5 kT yield). Terminal homing was regarded as unnecessary for a nuclear-armed missile, and so the the SAM-N-6bW airframe lacked the small SARH antennas.

The SAM-N-6b1 became operational in 1960. It had almost double the effective range of the SAM-N-6b, and had a new continuous-rod warhead with higher lethality. SAM-N-6bW1 was the nuclear armed equivalent of the 6bW.

The separate conventional and nuclear armed missiles were a bit impractical, because every Talos ship had to store at least some nuclear missiles, although these would most probably never be needed. Therefore a new version, the SAM-N-6c1 "Unified Talos", was introduced in 1962. With this model, the conventional and nuclear warhead could be exchanged on-board. The SAM-N-6c1 also had a higher ceiling and a new continuous-wave (CW) radar seeker for terminal homing, which improved effectiveness against low-flying targets. The Unified Talos soon replaced most earlier missiles on the Navy's ships. A few SAM-N-6b1 missiles were also fitted with the CW seeker, and redesignated SAM-N-6b1(CW).

First a brief period in the mid-50's, the U.S. Air Force considered using a land-based Talos missile (called Talos-L or Talos-W) as an interim interceptor missile, until the IM-99-CIM-10 Bomarc would be ready. In 1955, the IM-70 designator was assigned by the USAF, and the designations XIM-70A and XIM-70C were reserved by the for land-based equivalents of the Navy's then projected SAM-N-6b1 and SAM-N-6bW1 variants, respectively (there are no records of a -70B designation). However, interest remained low, and in 1957 the land-based Talos project was transferred to the Army and cancelled soon after.

All Talos variants had some surface-to-surface capability, although probably only the nuclear-tipped versions would have been really effective. In 1963, all variants of Talos were redesignated in the RIM-8 series, as follows:

Old Designation New Designation
SAM-N-6b1 RIM-8C
SAM-N-6c1 RIM-8E
SAM-N-6b1(CW) RIM-8F

The RIM-8G had an improved beam-riding guidance and became operational in 1966. The final surface-to-air Talos version was RIM-8J, which had improved SARH guidance and entered service in 1968. In 1968, a Talos fired from the USS Long Beach shot down a Vietnamese MiG at very long range. In total, three MiG kills in South-East Asia were credited to Talos missiles.

RGM-8H Talos-ARM was a dedicated anti-radiation missile for use against shore-based radar stations. Talos-ARM could be fitted with seekers for various radar frequencies, and also employed some ECCM features. Flight tests were performed in 1965 and soon after, the RGM-8H was operational in South-East Asia, where it was used in combat against Vietnamese SAM radars.

Phase-out of the Talos began in 1974, and in 1979 the last operational Talos ship was retired. The originally planned replacement, the SAM-N-8-RIM-50 Typhon LR had been cancelled, but long-range air-defence was eventually provided by the RIM-67 Standard ER missile. The remaining Talos missiles were converted to MQM-8G Vandal supersonic targets, simulating anti-ship missile threats.

Later modifications of the basic MQM-8G Vandal resulted in the non-standard designations MQM-8X (called Fleet Vandal), MQM-8G-ER (Extended Range) and MQM-8G-EER (Extended Extended Range). The ER and EER versions are still in use today.


Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for RIM-8G, except where noted:

Length (w-o booster) 6.40 m (21 ft); booster: 3.35 m (11 ft)
Wingspan 2.80 m (110 in)
Finspan 2.05 m (81 in)
Diameter 0.71 m (28 in); booster: 0.76 m (30 in)
Weight (w-o booster) 1540 kg (3400 lb); booster: 1990 kg (4400 lb)
Speed Mach 2.5
Ceiling 24400 m (80000 ft)
Range 185 km (100 nm); RIM-8A: 92 km (50 nm)
Propulsion Solid-fueled rocket booster
Bendix ramjet sustainer
Warhead 136 kg (300 lb) continuous-rod HE warhead or W-30 nuclear warhead (2 - 5 kT)
Main Sources

[1] Norman Friedman: "US Naval Weapons", Conway Maritime Press, 1983
[2] Bill Gunston: "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rockets and Missiles", Salamander Books Ltd, 1979
[3] James N. Gibson: "Nuclear Weapons of the United States", Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 1996

AKA: IM-70; RIM-8; Talos; SAM-N-6.
Status: Retired 1979.
Gross mass: 3,167 kg (6,982 lb).
Height: 10.06 m (33.00 ft).
Diameter: 0.76 m (2.49 ft).
Span: 2.74 m (8.98 ft).
Thrust: 89.20 kN (20,053 lbf).
Apogee: 20 km (12 mi).
First Launch: 1952.10.28.
Number: 1 .

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
  • Talos American Navy long-range ramjet-powered surface-to-air missile family. More...
  • missile Guided self-propelled military weapon (as opposed to rocket, an unguided self-propelled weapon). More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • USN American agency overseeing development of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. USN Joint Task Force 7, USA. More...
  • Bendix American manufacturer of rockets and spacecraft. Bendix, USA. More...

  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.

Associated Launch Sites
  • White Sands White Sands Missile Range occupies an area 160 x 65 km in the Tularosa Basin of southern New Mexico, across the Sacramento Mountain range from Roswell. In the 1930's, Robert Goddard, after surveying weather conditions and population densities, had selected Roswell for his pioneering rocket tests. White Sands, a true desert area, was even more unpopulated than Roswell. German advances in rocketry during World War II impelled the US Army to begin programs to exploit this technology. The White Sands Proving Ground was established for testing German and American long-range rockets on 9 July 1945. Seven days later the first atomic bomb was exploded at Trinity Site, near the north boundary of the range. The first launch of a Tiny Tim rocket was on 26 September 1945. On 11 October a Tiny Tim boosted a WAC Corporal rocket from the tower. This was the first use of Launch Complex 33, later to be used for V-2, Nike, Viking, Corporal, Lance and Multiple Launch Rocket System testing. More...

Associated Stages
  • Talos-1 Solid propellant rocket stage. Loaded mass 1,500 kg. Thrust 516.00 kN. The Talos motor was fitted with a conical adapter for mating to the second stage. Differential drag forces caused separation. Four fins were arranged at the aft end in a cruciform configuration and drove the vehicle to approximately one revolution per second burnout roll rate. More...

Talos Chronology

1952 October 28 - . Launch Site: White Sands. LV Family: Talos. Launch Vehicle: Talos.
  • X-SAM-N-6 test - . Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Apogee: 5.00 km (3.10 mi).

Home - Browse - Contact
© / Conditions for Use