After Snark: The Mace B at Cape Canaveral

  • Published
  • By Mark Cleary
  • 45th SW Historian
Though less-heralded than the ground-breaking Matador program in the early 1950s, the Mace B missile program had a significant impact on the Cape's operations in the early 1960s. As such, it offers an interesting sidebar to the evolution of winged missiles on the Eastern Range. The Mace B was a newer version of the Mace A cruise missile - a terrain-following, bullet-nosed, winged missile that the Glenn L. Martin Company offered as its replacement for the Matador. Unlike the "A," the Mace B employed an inertial guidance system. Flights from the Cape were designed to prove the value of the new missile and its ground support equipment.

The Air Force was committed to the deployment of intercontinental ballistic missiles by the early 1960s, and winged missiles like the Snark and Bomarc were clearly on their way out. Nevertheless, there was still room for ground-launched, air-breathing missiles in the Air Force's inventory, and 44 Mace Bs were launched from "soft" (open ground) and "hard" (concrete enclosed) sites at the Cape between October 29, 1959 and the end of July 1963.

The missile's lineage was apparent from its swept-wing, turbojet design. Relatively small, measuring just over 44 feet long and 23 feet from wing-tip to wing-tip, the Mace B had a fuselage that was only 54 inches in diameter. Equipped with an Allison J33-A-41 engine as its main power plant, the Mace B was launched with a boost from a RATO solid rocket weighing 2,950 pounds.

As Chief of the 6555th Test Wing's Mace Operations Division, Major Abbott L. Taylor was given the task of developing a "blue suit" (all-military) launch capability for the new missile. Some of Taylor's key people completed factory training at Martin's plant in Baltimore, Maryland, and they were involved in Mace B launches at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, before assisting Martin on early Mace B launches at the Cape.

Five Mace B missiles were launched by contractors and contractor/military crews from a soft site near Complex 21's hard site (under construction) during the first half of 1960. The hard site supported its first launch on July 11, 1960. All-military crews launched their first two Mace B missiles on November 15 and December 16, 1960. Following six more missile launches in March, April and June, the Mace B's final Performance Demonstration launch was completed on June 21, 1961.

Launches continued under Tactical Air Command's 4504th Missile Training Wing, but the 6555th's involvement in the program ended at the conclusion of Mace Category III Systems Operational Testing and Evaluation in April 1962. TAC sponsored eight more Mace B launches from Cape Canaveral between October 31, 1962 and July 18, 1963.
Mace cruise missiles were deployed to West Germany and Okinawa in the 1960s. The Mace A and Mace B were retired from active service in 1966 and 1971 respectively. Some were used as target drones in later years.