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Taurus SSM-N-4
Interim long-range cruise missile considered by the US Navy in 1946-1948, an unmanned version of the AJ-1 Savage carrier-based bomber.

AKA: SSM-N-4. Status: Cancelled 1948.

In 1946 the US Navy established a requirement to launch nuclear strikes from carriers beyond the 1300 km (700 nm) combat radius achievable by manned aircraft. An unmanned version of the new AJ-1 Savage carrier-borne medium bomber was studied. This would have over double the range on a one-way strike mission. The missile would be remote controlled to the half-way point by a manned aircraft. Guidance after that point was problematic, and the idea was dropped in 1948.

Maximum range: 2,700 km (1,600 mi).

Historical Essay © Andreas Parsch

North American SSM-N-4 Taurus

In 1946, the U.S. Navy had several active strategic missile programs, but none of these would lead to an operational weapon before the early to mid-1950s. The Navy's means to deliver nuclear waepons at "long" range were limited to launching manned bombers with a range of not more than 1300 km (700 nm) from aircraft carriers. Feeling the need to compete with the U.S. Army Air Force in the field of strategic bombardment, the Navy sought for interim solutions until true long-range missiles would become available.

The proposed interim weapon was an unmanned version of the Navy's latest carrier-based heavy bomber, the North American AJ-1 Savage, which was nearing its first flight at that time. The projected missile was designated SSM-4 Taurus, changed to SSM-N-4 in early 1948. The mixed-power (piston-turbojet) SSM-N-4 was planned to have a range of at least 2600 km (1400 nm), and was to be controlled on the initial portion of its flight by an accompanying control aircraft.

As it turned out, the unmanned AJ-1 was a still-born idea, and the Taurus project was cancelled in 1948. No Savage airframe was ever completed in XSSM-N-4 unmanned prototype configuration.


I have no information about the exact characteristics of the planned XSSM-N-4 Taurus missile. The AJ Savage configuration, which was current at the time of Taurus program cancellation, is represented by the XAJ-1 prototype (first flown in July 1948), the data of which are presented below. It can be assumed, however, that the weight and range figures for the unmanned SSM-N-4 variant would have been significantly different.

Data for XAJ-1:

Length 19.22 m (63 ft 0.7 in)
Wingspan 21.76 m (71 ft 4.6 in)
Height 6.25 m (20 ft 6.2 in)
Weight 22700 kg (50000 lb)
Speed 725 km-h (450 mph)
Ceiling 12200 m (40000 ft)
Range 2700 km (1700 miles)
Propulsion 2x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-44W piston engine; 1700 kW (2300 hp) each
1x Allison J33-A-10 turbojet; 20.4 kN (4600 lb)
Main Sources

[1] Norman Friedman: "US Naval Weapons", Conway Maritime Press, 1983
[2] Kevin Thompson: "North American Aircraft 1934-1999, Volume 2", Narkiewicz-Thompson, 1999
[3] Steve Ginter: "North American AJ-1 Savage", 1992

Family: IRCM, ship-launched, US Cruise Missiles. Country: USA. Agency: North American.

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