The scientific tourist #256 — playing Lacrosse

Another interesting piece of early Cold War technology — a Lacrosse missile (it’s at the Air Force Space and Missile Museum, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in Florida):


The MGM-18 Lacrosse was a short-range tactical ballistic missile, essentially a rocket propelled piece of field artillery, built and fielded in the early days of the cold war.  It got its name from its planned operating scheme — a Lacrosse missile would be fired from its truck-mounted launcher well to the rear of the battle line, then steered to its destination by controllers at a jeep-mounted forward observation station (somewhat analogous to the way Lacrosse players pass the ball to other players nearer the goal).

The missile’s controllers near the line of battle would have had a lively time, particularly given that this thing was built to carry a nuclear warhead and only had a 12 mile (19 km) range.

Lacrosse started as a U. S. Navy project in 1947, got passed to the Army in 1950, and finally entered service in 1959.  Almost 1200 of the missiles were built before they were retired from service in 1964 — the system’s long development and short operational life both being due to limitations of the technology of the time.  Between marginal reliability and a radio-based command link (susceptible to jamming), the system was obsolete before it was fielded.

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