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French Army  

Air Defense Missiles 

Nike & Hawk  

By G. Dessornes  

 

© G &E Ent. 

2007

 

 

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French Army Air Defense Missiles 

Nike & Hawk

  

 

 

 

 

Short Recall on French Missiles R & D  

 
 

 
Immediately after the Allied victory, France started rebuilding its aeronautical industry and resumed 
research. Starting in 1946 the country developed some very interesting missiles. Three of the most 
noteworthy missiles from the past were the CT series, the (SSM) SE-4200

1

 and the anti-armor SS-11 

developed in the 1950’s. 
 
The 

CT-10

2

 and then later the CT-20 (1958) was a near supersonic training target. It replaced remote 

controlled airplanes used by the Air Force for training and provided AA units with realistic targets to 
practice on. The recoverable target was in use with the NATO Hawks after 1968 until 1980.  In 1970, 
based on the CT-20

3

, the R-20 was an early and very successful reconnaissance drone. 

 
By 1955, the 

SE-4263

, (an upgraded version of the SE–4200) was operational with the 701

st

 and 702

nd

 

GAG. This non-nuclear capable missile was a precursor to the US Honest John and was very 
sophisticated for its time; its range alone sets it aside in a class of its own: 

 
4 missiles could be fired almost simultaneously remotely, controlled from a mobile van. 
The range was about 100 Klm; military payload 135Klg.; precision 30 meters; and apogee 
about 1600m. Its very short launcher (less that 4 feet long) was mounted on a medium size 
truck. The whole system was very nimble and mobile. About 600 were built. 
 

The

 SS-11 

and its later development, the

 Entac 

were wire guided anti-armor missiles. Mounted on 

a variety of vehicles (and helicopters), the German inspired weapon had been sold worldwide and 
gave birth to a large family of similar systems.

 

 
 

Air Defense 

 

It appears that the SAM missiles developed in France -- some with the participation of German old timers-
- did not fully meet the expectations of the Army.  French missiles very successfully used stato-reactors. 
These engines used liquid fuel that complicated maintenance and needed dangerous (liquid fueled) 
“accelerators”. Yet, the substantial increase in range obtained with stato-reactors did not compensate for 
the tricky situation created by its fragile accelerators. In the US, the proponents of the US Air Force 
Bomarc vs. US Army Hercules had the same debate. The two stages Nike Ajax used liquid propellants 
but its engine was not a stato-reactor.   
 
When science finally solved the problem of the powder-burning rate control, safe and reliable boosters 
became available (Ajax). Powder boosters --or accelerators-- needed no maintenance per se and 
drastically augmented the readiness of military missiles. The stato-reactor design then lost its 
attractiveness with the French military establishment.  
 
On the guidance and electronic side, French Air Defense managers favored using existing radars and 
computing devices even if they had to be upgraded. Budgetary constraints were also a consideration. The 
net result was a mixed bag of “systems” of questionable reliability and military effectiveness such as the 
(SAM) SE-4400 (Parca).  

                                                 

1

 This program very much interested the US Army that funded about 40% of it.   

22

 The CT-10 was based on the famous VI flying bomb. The upgrade was re-engineered by German personnel working in France.  

3

 The CT-22, its last descendant to be retired (2007) was replaced by

 

Galileo Avionica’s Mirach 100/5, of Italy. Ref: Colonel (Ret) C. 

Schaepelynck. 

 

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Then in1957 the US 

revealed 

(quoting from French Army Inspector General Soisson

4

) the details of the 

Sidewinder and the Hawk

5

. It established the marked technological superiority of the US. Facing newer 

Soviet air threat, the Pentagon also wished to see NATO nations equipped with more advanced air 
defense.  
 
The decision by the Europeans to acquire the Hawk was also probably due to the fact that the Nike 
missile had very good results on the DEW line with its data transmission & fire distribution system Missile 
Monitor. The same scheme, being used by the Hawk, was without a doubt a factor amongst many others 
such as ECM and mobility, etc…

  

 

French NIKE Units 

 

1957 - 1958 
When the unusual mix of Army-Air Force unit was assembled in France it was called --however 
unofficially – 

Premier Bataillon Nike

. In Fort Bliss it came to be known as 1st French Nike Battalion. It kept 

the Nike moniker until 1960 when it took its official name 721

st

 Groupe d’Artillerie Guidée (GAG).  

 
The Hawk units (401

st

, 402

nd

 & 403

rd

 AA Regiments) came in after the French Army completely 

abandoned the NIKE to the French Air Force. For historical purposes, note that certain 1961 documents 
called them “722” and/or “723 GAAG” (Groupe d’Artillerie Antiaérienne Guidée), respectively but the 403

rd

 

appears not to have been concerned.  
There were no direct links between Nike and Hawk

6

, except at operational Army level through mission 

assignment (Missile Monitor

 

AN/MSG-4) as both weapons systems were linked to the 4

th

 ATAF though 

the French Air Force 1

st

CATAC. Most of the Army technical and non-technical NCOs as well as some of 

its junior officers that populated the Nike were later reassigned to the Hawk’s three regiments.  

  

1959 –  
In Fort Bliss, Texas, after various individual

7

 training starting as early as Sept 1957, the Battalion met with 

its equipment at Tobin-Well where it completed unit integration. The ensuing successful Firing Practice at 
Mac Gregor Range certified the unit

8

.  

In July 1959, returning from Fort Bliss, the Battalion was hosted by the 485

th

 RAA in Karlsruhe, Germany 

where the equipment was delivered. Absorbing some of the 485’s cadre, the 721

st

 GAG then moved to 

Stetten a.k.m

9

, where HQ, 1

st

 and 2

nd

 batteries

10

 were also located. The 3

rd

 battery was stationed at

 

Münsingen

 

and 4

th 

squadron (Air Force) was at Mengen.   

By then the 485

th

 RAA was deactivated and the 721

st

 Air arm took over its installation before moving to 

Lahr, Germany.

  

 
We can surmise that the Karlsruhe stop over was due to delays in relocating resident units and getting 
the base ready.  In Stetten at least, one reinforced concrete launcher base had to be redone. Also, in 
Stetten, using material from the excavations protecting the FCC vans, the PAR areas had been raised by 
a few meters. Still very visible was the earthmover’s recent scarring of the small hilltop. Also, the 
perimeter fencing was not complete. To some extent, the same was true for the Battalion Operation 
Center (BOC) located 3/4 mile away.  

 

The 721

st

 organizational structure was typical of the French Army Air Defense regiment except for the 

management of the Nike supply that simply duplicated the US system (spare parts). The mission 
assignments went through the BOC and its radars (AN/TPS-1D supplemented by French Air force MPS-

                                                 

4

 General Soisson may be in error regarding the date of the “revelation”.  At that very time a group of 20 Officers and NCO were 

already in Fort Bliss training on the Nike Ajax. We believe the “revelation ” probably took place one or two years earlier, i.e, 1955.  

5

 If we recognize their longevity with the NATO armed forces alone, three missiles could enter a Missile Hall of Fame: The French 

SS11, the US Hawk and the 50 years old US Sidewinder still in use in 2006. 

6

 Actually there is one link between the two: Lt Colonel Raspaud, the first CO of the Nike was reassigned in 1961 to command the 

403

rd

 RAA. The old 403, not yet with Hawk! 

7

 About 250 trainees in Fort Bliss and 50 in Redstone Arsenal, Al. 

8

 The Belgium Battalion was to shoot in the presence of their King, but they had problems. The target was assigned to B2’s Ajax. 

King Baudouin of Belgium did not seem to mind and humored his “new subjects”  (so we were told!) 

9

 The site had previously seen a similar activity during WW II. It was the launch site of the 

Bachem NATTER

 manned anti-aircraft 

rocket that killed its pilot on the first flight (source Rick Anders)  

10

 Battery & Squadron are two callings of the same: Battery for the Army, Squadron for the Air Force. All through out this essay, we 

respect the names according to the branch.  

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11 and MPS-14) in turn subordinated to the Air Operation at Drachenbronn, France (1

st

 CATAC) in the 

deep confines of the Maginot line

 

and later through the NADGE radar defense network, etc. 

Communications, radio links in particular, were in the hand of the French Air Force.  3

rd

 echelon 

logistics were in Stetten manned by the Army’s DSDR (Depot repair) with a complement of Air Force 
personnel, all trained at Redstone Arsenal. 
All four units were equipped with Ajax and Hercules; none were nuclear capable at that time.  
 

(I personally picked-up a beautiful German fire truck used as a water pump for the 
quarterly Ajax’s refueling that had to be emptied first! -- What a dangerous mess that 
was!)

  

 
The 721

st

 GAG, under NATO operational control was subjected to the dreaded 

O

perational 

R

eadiness 

I

nspections (ORI) conducted by “NATO integrated” but US lead teams. Quite a few “funny stories” 

emerged from those inspections where etiquette and ethics differed from one nation to the other. But, 
humor aside, technical considerations were strictly observed and check list reading prevailed as it 
concluded with the momentous statement: 
 

Operational

Y / N

 (Check one). 

 

However those surprise “

Operational Readiness Inspections

 “ had the advantage of breaking the 

monotonous routine of what would be the life of watchdogs!  Each unit was in turn on “5 Minutes Alert 
Status” for 24 hours, then on “30mn Alert Status” and finally on “Maintenance” status for two days. The 
other advantage is that one would have 3 to 4 day passes every week or two weeks; then weekend 
“overtime” hours were subjected to appropriate compensations in the form of more R&R.  French Army 
Regulations had to be revisited to accommodate the 721

st

 GAG needs! (Quite a revolution there!)  

 

Historical note: 

In June 1961, 2nd Battery, 721st GAG was on “5mn Alert Status” 

and its PAR was attentively tracking President John F. Kennedy during his flight 
from Paris to Vienna to meet with Khrushchev. The sky was clear of air activity, 
and orders were to shoot at any aircraft approaching Air Force One. The IFF/SIF 
returns were painting the largest bananas I have ever seen on any scope since!  
All missiles were UP and the FCC van was full of brass observing the 
proceedings.

 

 
On January 1961, the French Air Force 520

ème

 BE (

B

rigade d’

E

ngins)

11

 took over the whole operation and 

stepped into the Army’s shoes. On July 1962, the 4

th

 Battery became Squadron 4/520. A number of Army 

personnel remained with the 4

th

 until the next firing practice in 1962 at McGregor Range, N Mex. to help 

with the transition. Also, in the Spring of 1962, the last Army technical personnel left the BOC

12

In March 1961, after training (since 1960), a new 521

st

 BE received its equipment at Tobin Well. After 

firing practice at McGregor Range, the 521

st

 rejoined the Friedrichafen Air Base where the 3/521 and 

4/521 took provisory quarters. 
 

In 1962 the 520

e

 BE won the Stiker trophy for NATO’s best performance at the 

McGregor annual Firing Practice. However, this success was tempered by the death 
of a French officer and the major injuries of an NCO

13

. For reasons not entirely clear, 

a failsafe command destroyed a Hercules at the vertical of its launcher. The falling 
debris struck the French personnel observing the firing nearby.   

 

In March 1964

, the Münsingen (now the 1/520) site was the first to be “nuclearized” while French Army 

personnel were still operational there.  All in all, the Münsingen Unit under various commands, traveled 6 
times to New Mexico for its firing practice. 
  
We have learned since, that the French Army higher ups had little faith in the “fixed” NIKE. Since the Nike 
was practically unmovable and should the Russians overrun NATO (as nuclear fire was, in the mind of 
French officials, questionable), the Army had over supplied the 721

st

 GAG with the latest in infantry 

weaponry.  Coincidentally, Stetten was also a training ground for Anti-armor defense where French and 
US trained on the French made SS-11 and Entac wire guided missiles. 
 
 

                                                 

11

 At one time named 

60

ème

 BE

 and 

61

ème

 BE (B

rigade d'

E

ngins) 

12

 C/WO Delors and W/O Vitiello. 

13

 Lieutenant Kholer and Sergent Cordier.

 

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From L’Armée (March 1960): Creation of Nike and Honest John units. 

 
 

French Nuclear NIKE. 

 

In France, some like to think that with its two “atomic” Missile Squadrons --1/520

14

 at Bottingen 

and 3/520 at Ineringen -- the French Air-Force Nike units were the first operational nuclear 
organizations in France. The facts are that the French 11

th

 Air Fighting Squadron based in 

Bremgarten flew F100s armed with US nuclear bombs prior to 1964; also at this

 

time, strategic 

Mirages IV were flying with their own French nuclear device

15

.   

 
 
Were those Nike units truly

16

 nuclear?   

The question and the answers may shed some light on the relationship between France and its 
main ally, French NATO politics of the time, and General De Gaulle’s decision to remove France 
from NATO command followed by the departing of US forces from French soil and its long-term 
consequences.  
Indeed, the units were nuclear, but they 

were not under direct and independent 

control from 

Paris.

  

 

The arrangement was as follows: A permanent US detachment of about 150 men specially 
trained in Fort Bliss in the manipulation of the nuclear warhead was stationed on each French 
launch site and assigned to the nuclear Hercules in all its aspects: armament, matting /de-
matting, maintenance, training as well as custodial duties. Other non-nuclear missiles on the 
same site were in the hands of the French. The US personnel were quartered in separate 
facilities on site as well as on base. Each detachment --here the US Army 357th Arty Det.

17

 -- was 

                                                 

14

 Capt. C Porchet’s 

15

 Notes from AF Colonel A. Geoffroy.

 

 

16

 As well as other French services using US nuclear hardware. 

17

 CO in 1962 was Col. Owsley.  

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identified from A to D following the battery calling of each battalion. The two US detachments to 
the French were A & B. 
 
Nuclear Hercules could only be fired if both independent chains of command -- Allies Command 
and US Government -- were in agreement

18

. The arming plugs resting in the hand of the local US 

detachments were to be set-in only when the command release was activated through encrypted 
secured messages.  
  
When examining other NATO Nike units such as the Belgium, it is entirely clear that the American 
Government, regarding its nuclear weaponry, applied to the French the same standing rules it 
used to all its allies.     
 
In spite of this inordinate set of constraints and according to French Air Force Captain (ret.) Mark 
Revel and (then) French Army C/WO Louis Picard, the relationship between both nations was 
very professional if not overtly friendly at all levels. To confirm the good relations, then Specialist 
E4 Larry W. Fink

 19

, assigned to the 357th Arty Det. in Stetten from 1962 to1964, tells us that his 

amateur jazz band with a French Air Force sergeant, as pianist, entertained at the Stetten NCO 
and Officer Mess Halls! 
 
However, for French President De Gaule, such an arrangement could not have been more 
unpleasant. It also gives credence to the theory that the decision to nuclearize the French Nike 
was made prior 1958, before De Gaulle became Prime Minister, for it is doubtful he would have 
supported such an arrangement. 

 

The Nike Nuclear warheads

20

 

 

The details of the nuclear charges arming the Nike were secret. To this day, more than 40 years 
later, active military on the Nike sites still do not exactly know of it. Only when the US Army 
had deactivated its last NIKE batteries and the majority of allied batteries had been denuclearized 
was the IISS (International Institute for Strategic Studies, London) able to quote in "Military 
Balance 1984-85":

21

 

 

Warhead W-31 mod. 2, 2/20/40 KT, throwweight 1120 lbs. 
Warhead for B-XS was 2 KT.  
Warhead for B-XL was originally 40 KT and converted in the seventies to 20 KT.  
(The text also mentioned Conventional warheads.)

 

 
(B = Hercules, X = nuclear, S = Small, L=large) 

 

Conventionally, the Nike Hercules could be armed with warheads called Type “A” (nuclear W31) 
and Type “C”. (Non-nuclear

 

T45). Nuclear sites received both type: 8 Type C, and 2 Type A 

warheads.  
It is not without irony that the now public East German secret archives confirm some of the above 
data. 

 

  

East German sources state that the basic load for Type A NIKE battery was 
ten warheads, with eight of 2 KT (M22) and two of 30 KT yield (M23). The 
source cannot confirm which warheads the French had. All French units were 
said to be of Type A (with nuclear warheads) and not Type C (without nuclear 
warheads).  

 

 

Rules of engagement: “Blazing Skies”

 22

 

 
In theory, the military chain of command for nuclear missions was:  
 

                                                 

18

 Major J-M De Blende, Belgium Air Force. 

19

 Conversation with Larry W. Fink, Esq. in 2007. He stated that with barely one exercise a month he had ample time to practice his 

music and visit the countryside. 

20

 We are deeply indebt to Rick Anders for this paragraph.  

21

 From a German book "Blazing Skies" 

22

 “Blazing skies” as the name implies, is the code name for a major air attack to be countered with nuclear fire. 

 

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SACEUR - AFCENT - ATAF - SOC - Battalion – Battery.  
 

No German zones or areas were safe from nuclear fire as no restriction was imposed to where 
the missiles could be exploded. 
 

Nuclear procedures

: Before firing the missile, the 

M

inimum 

B

urst 

A

ltitude (MBA) had to be set, 

which allowed a detonation in flight without (or minimized) nuclear fall-out. In case of an in-flight 
emergency – a fail-safe command-- both missile body and warhead could be destroyed by a 
conventional detonation. 

 

 
Surface to surface

:

 

As the Nike's effective range was limited to the territory of the Federal 

Republic of Germany there were no pre-planned targets. In case of war, the commanding general 
of an Army Corps would have been authorized to request a Nike nuclear mission to hold an 
enemy's breakthrough after release from the ATAF responsible commander. To be successful, an 
execution order had to reach battalion headquarters at least 90 minutes before "Time Over 
Target" or TOT (i.e., time of detonation).  
Converting 

flying target

 data into 

ground target

 data was a complicated and lengthy process of 49 

steps taking place both at battalion and at battery HQ’s. With the introduction of Texas Instrument 
hand-held calculators in 1972, the computing time was considerably shortened.  
As a rule, a battery that received a ground mission was released by the SOC from its air defense 
responsibility 30 minutes prior to firing in order to fully concentrate on the mission at hand.  
Return to the air defense mission took only five minutes. 
Only after 1970 was the nuclear surface-to-surface operational procedure the subject of 

Tac

(tical) 

Eval

(uation)s.  

 
Incidentally, only Turkey planed on using 

conventional 

surface-to-surface warheads for its NIKE 

Hercules.

 

 

French Nike sites 

 

(Ref: Bureau Technique-Travaux Air # 7247/Ta/S/S Feb.1965) 

 

Over the years and until 1966, the French Nike installations on German soil were the subject of many 
changes and /or proposals

23

 not all implemented.  

According to the above-mentioned document, in 1958

24

 two brigades were programmed to setup in the – 

then -- South Western Germany were the French had responsibility. In 1958, USAREUR, (4

th

 ATAF) and 

the French 1

st

 CATAC agreed on the following arrangement: 

 

 

The French Nike Air Force HQ was to be in Freidrichshsafen on an existing French air 
base.  

 The 

520

th

 Brigade HQ was to be quartered in the Stetten camp with squadrons in 

Inneringen, Bottingen, Haiterbach and Beffendorf 

 The 

521

st

 Brigade was to be stationed at Altheim-Ehingen with one squadron, and the 

other three squadrons at Munsingen, Aufofen and Bad-Burzach. 

 
However, the designated sites were not ready when the first Battalion completed its American training. 
The 

Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe

  (SHAPE) and the French wanted at least one unit 

fully operational as soon as possible, even if temporary. The first brigade (mixed Army – Air Force) took 
position at Stetten with battalion HQ, BOC and two batteries; one battery went to Musingen and one 
Squadron to Mengen. This set up was carried out in 1958-1959.  Work for permanent installation began in 
1962 at Bottlingen and Inneringen. 1964 saw work at the Haiterbach site, 1965 at the Munsingen and 
Atheim-Ehingen sites and in 1966 at the Bad Wurzach site. The whole project was to be completed by 
1968. 

 

As of 1965 the situation was as follows: 
French Nike HQ (

Escadre

) at Freidrichshsafen (500e GUE). 

   

                                                 

23

 As well as controversy: Item: the German AFGS (war ministry) was against the storage and installation of nuclear warheads at the 

Freidrichshsafen site as being too close to populated area. Ref: Bureau Technique-Travaux Air # 7247/Ta/S/S Feb.1965. 

24

 The decision to « go Nike » dated before this date if we observe that the first contingent of trainees was sent to Fort Bliss in mid 

1957. Considering the traditional administrative slowness, we suspect that the decision was more likely to have been around 1956. 
The original training was set up for a period of 14 months covering the AJAX 

and not

 the Hercules.

  

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For the 520

th

 Brigade 

 

HQ and COB in Stetten with one squadron 

 

One squadron each in Bottingen, Inneringen, Haiterbach.  

 

For the 521

st

 Brigade: 

 

HQ in Freidrichshsafen with one squadron. 

 

One squadron each in Musingen, Mengen and Ehingen with the brigade’s COB.   

 

It would be futile here to list the number of Squadron transfers to and fro from each Brigade to arrive at 
the above “arrangement”.  Suffice to say, that while the names changed, neither equipment nor personnel 
actually moved. However, it is worth mentioning that in 1964 both Brigades came under the command of 
the 500e Groupement d’Unités d’Engins (GUE) HQ at Freidrichshsafen. The 500e GUE was deactivated 
in 1966. In March 31

st

, 1967 the Stetten’s BA 520 closed followed by Freidrichshsafen’s BA 521on April 

30

th

, 1967

25

 

 

**** 

 

French Missiles  

in NATO Air Defense  

 

The French effort to the European air defense can be measured with the number of missile units France 

assigned to NATO. 

 
 

 

 

Nike

26

 

Hawk 

 

 

 

 

 

Country

27

 

Nb  

Nb  

tt 

Units 

% Defense

% Population 

 

 
Germany  

 

24 

 

36 

 

60 

 
Batteries  

 

46% 

 

40% 

 

Belgium  

16 

Squadrons 

13% 

6% 

 

French 

28

 

8  

16 

Squad /Bat. 

13% 

39% 

 

Netherlan
ds  

8 12  20 

Squadrons 

16% 

9%  

Denmark  

Squadrons 

6% 

6% 

 

Norway  

10 

Batteries 

8% 

3% 

(Hawk 
NASAM

29

Total: 56 

74 130 

 

100% 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

US in 
Germany

 

30

 

24 32 

(+12) 

  Batteries 

 

 

 

 
Total 
Europe 

 

80 

 

106 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion:

  Compared to its European allies (population or GNP), France barely held her weight. 

                                                 

25

 Ref. « Les Missiles Nike Français » by Colonel G. Guizol (H) 

26

 About 336 Nike batteries were deployed worldwide. 

27

 Not in the “

barrier

” per se, Italy guarded its southern flank and deployed 12 Nike batteries. The last was deactivated in mid 2007.  

28

 France owned 4 more Hawk batteries: one in reserve, one for training, two assigned to domestic air defense.  

29

 Hawk modified by Norway and Raytheon.  

30

 Not assigned to the “ barrier”, 12 more Hawk batteries covered the US Army in the Rhineland-Palatinate region.

 

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NATO

 

Air Defense in Germany, Zones & Sectors  

 

French responsibility in red 

 

Zone 1 & 11 are Nike. Sector 41 & 42 are Hawk. 

 

 

 

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Map of Camp Stetten a.k.m. 

 

 

 

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Nike Data Relay network  

 

A SOC-4 (Sector Operations Center) from the 4th ATAF was located within the French Air Force 
CDC (Centre de Control et Détection) at Drachenbronn and it was in turn connected to the 
French STRIDA (Air Surveillance Data Transmission System).  This system fed the BOCs that 
controlled the Nike Units. For practical reasons and until the beginning of 1965, the Stetten’s 
BOC controlled the Mengen and Münsingen units in addition to its 4 regular squadrons. 
 
The link between STRIDA and OC/MSQ18 in 1964 was marred by a number of problems due to 
line transmission difficulties with the French Air Force and /or with the Germans Bundespost. 
However by 1965 the link was fully operational.  Later, the Bundespost ended up being the de 
facto transmission operator for all NATO needs. Redundant national radio networks (i.e., each 
NATO participant) were set up to supplement the ground lines.  
 
Attempts were then made to connect with the US 412L system to the German Air Force radar at 
Messtetten (15/20 km NW of Stetten).  As the decision to leave NATO was made, no further 
work was done in this direction

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.

 

 

 

 

                                                 

31

 Col Geoffroy. 3-2007 

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B1 & B2 FCC Sites in Stetten a.k.m. 

 

 

 
 

 

 

B2 & B1 Launcher Sites in Stetten a.k.m. 

 

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Münsingen Nike site:  Booster Fall Zones.  

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Munsingen Site 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

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General Order Number 3. 

Deactivation of the French Nike Units.

 

(Dated Oct 25, 1966)

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French HAWK Units. 

 

Following the return from the US Air Defense School in Fort Bliss

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 and after successful 

firing practices: 
 
The 401

st

 RAA was assigned to the Air Defense School in Nîmes, France. One 

dismounted battery was solely dedicated to training. Originally created in 1924, the 
regiment was reactivated in February 1964 for the Hawk and deactivated in 1993.  
 
The 402

nd

 RAA, direct descendant of the 2

nd

 RADCA in 1919 and until 1939, was 

reactivated in 1964 as it received its equipment in Kehl, Germany (the final manufacturing 
assembly was in Germany). It absorbed the 423rd RAA, its host at the Voisin Barracks 
(formerly Grossherzog-Friedrich-Kaserne). After qualifying the system in the summer of 
1965, it moved to Bavaria (Munich area) with HQ in Dachau. Two batteries (1

st

 & 

4

th

) were "on the barrier".  The 1

st

 was deployed near Murnau, about 80 klm South of 

Munich. The 4

th

 occupied a US site at Oberschleissheim, about 12 Klm East of Dachau 

and was “on alert status “ within days (Btry CO Capt Fremont’s quote). The 2

nd

 and 3

rd

 

stationed at the infamous Dachau camp were at the ready to "move" and / or take over 
pre-selected positions as needed. Operationally the 402

nd

 was subordinated to the nearby 

Freising NATO Air Defense concern. 

 

The 403

rd

 RAA was assigned to Landau, Germany. The Fort Bliss Air Defense School only 

trained its technical personnel and officers. After troop training in France, the Regiment 
fired its first missiles at the CEL Range in Biscarosse, France. The 403

rd

, while fully 

operational, was not set up on a “permanent site” as it was an Army Corp / Divisional 
reserve. It exercised and trained on its Ebenberg site nearby. The Regiment originally 
created in 1923 existed until 1940. It was activated from 1948 to 1961. It was reactivated in 
March 1964 with the Hawk and deactivated again in June 1999.

 

 

 

Documents recently uncovered through German archives (Thanks to M. R Anders from 
Münsingen) show that plans were in the works to have the 402

nd

 deployed on “recognized” 

positions in case of war as follows: 
 

 

1

st

 Battery at Oberschleissheim airfield. (The 402

nd

 took over from a German 

Hawk unit. After the French left, the site was returned a US Army unit in Nov 1966) 

 

2

nd

 Battery at Erding airfield. 

 

 

3

rd

 Battery at Bad Aibling airfield. 

 

 

4

th

 Battery at Murnau, Kemmel or Kinbrow barracks. (In 1966 the Murnau site 

was turned over to a German HAWK site)

 

 

Note: This “new assignment” is probably partially in error, as B1 would have switched 
positions with B4.  
 
In the same plans, the 403

rd

 was to deploy in the Munich-Regensburg area to set up a new 

sector south of Munich. Another document suggests that the 403

rd

 would have loaned or 

subordinated a battery to the 402

nd

. In any event, by 1966, the regiment’s abrupt return to 

France terminated the scheme.  
 
Logistics and supply for the European Hawk was in Châteauroux, France until 1966 when 
it moved to Kappelen, Luxemburg. 

 
 

                                                 

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 Technical support personnel (Ordnance) received training at Redstone Arsenal and formed sub-units (DSDR) attached to 

each Regiment. Some Ordnance personnel for the Missile Monitor system were trained in Fort Bliss. 

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Projected move 

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Dachau Area 

 
 
 
 

     
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Murnau Area 

 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 

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***

 

 

 

Transition from NATO Command 

and Then…

 

 

1966- 

 

When the French Forces in Germany were removed from direct NATO command and the US 

forces left France, the French Air Force returned the "Nike electronics" 

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 (by now a Nuclear 

capable outfit) to the US, sold the acquired missiles to other allies and destroyed the non-nukes 
at

 

the Avord Air base, France. The Air Force disposed of the BOC and BTE (AN/TSQ 28, etc.) 

while the Army could have used them for its Hawk. In fact, spare parts lots were "saved" from 
the dump after two old friends, one Air Force and one Army, happened to meet at a private 
party. 
Most of the NIKE Air Force personnel ended up at the French nuclear missile silos (part of the 
French nuclear triad Submarines -Mirage IV – ICBM Missiles) in the Provence area.

 

 

The departure of the French left the Allied Air Defense barrier with an open gap. The French 
Nike had occupied Zones 1 and 2 behind the French Hawk Sectors 41 and 42. Zones and 
Sectors were also called Nike and Hawk belts respectively. The Luftwaffe and the US Army 
scrambled to fill the opening.  
When they left, the French had just completed the construction of a large “special ammunition” 
storage near Empfingen. The building was later used by the Luftwaffe to store its HAWK 
missiles. 
 
Note: A third French Nike unit was in the planning to be stationed between the Nike and the 
Hawk areas of responsibility and adjacent to the Austrian border. 

 

 
From L’

Armée

, March, 1965: 

 

« 

Following their return to France, the Hawk regiments will be 

assigned to National Air Defense. They are now under the technical 
authority of the Army Air Defense Command Head Quartered at 
Camp des Loges. This Command is in charge of Anti Aircraft 
Artillery when assigned to National Air Defense.  The Army AA HQ 
at Taverny is deactivated

 »  

 
In 1966 the 402

nd 

RAA relocated to Laon, and made good use of a former US Air Force base 

at Couvron and then moved to Chalons sur Marne in August 1976

.

 In 1967 the 403

rd

 moved to 

Chaumont where it occupied a former US Air Base at Semoutier until deactivation.

  

                                                              

 

Also in 1967, the SHAPE decided that a number of formerly occupied French sites were no 
longer needed after all and closed the following sites: Reichling, Wieling, Duernhausen, 
Fuerstenfeldbruck, Tuerkenfeld. However, Oberapfeldorf and Ueberacker sites were kept 
available for the planned Patriot system. 

  

 

In 1983, after a base and unit realignment (BRAC) where the Air Defense School (Nîmes) was 
attached to the Field Artillery School in Draguignan

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 and with the Hawk aging, the 401

st

 was 

deactivated (1993), and the 403

rd

 and 402

nd

 merged to form a new 402

nd

 RA. 

 

                                                 

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 A story of that time is that some high French authority did not know that the Nike were not French owned. Fact: only 

ammunition (missiles) and data transmission system had been fully acquired. 

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 Was it a model for the present plan to close Fort Bliss and move to Fort Sill?

 

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All the while, the Hawk equipment was constantly improved and modified along with the US 
and NATO Hawk active units. Fort Bliss was still very active with French students. 
In 2006, its Hawk slowly dying of old age (yet still of value), the 402

nd

 is waiting for its new 

ASTER system that is a cousin (or so it seems) of the US Patriot PAC 3. 

 
 
 
 
Historical note: 

On Sept 7, 1987 the 3

rd

 battery from the 403

rd

 led by 1

st 

Lt. 

Aznar shot down a Libyan Tupolev 22 bomber over N’djamena, the capital of 
Chad in Africa.  Since 1986 France had deployed a Hawk battery to help 
defend this country from Libyan interferences. Four US Air Force C5 Galaxy 
transported --in part -- the equipment. Tour of duty was about 4 months; 
each regiment in turn provided personnel. 

 
 
 

 

 

Remains of a Libyan Tupolev Bomber TU-22 

shot down over Chad, 1987.

 

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Acknowledgements  

Thanks 

 
 

Belgium

 

J-M De Blende, Maj, Ret. 
 

France 

M Abbrell, Col, Ret. 
P Balliot, Col, Ret. 
J Girard, Maj, Ret. 
P Marey, C/E, Ret. 
D Martinerie, Col. 
L Picard C/E, Ret. 
 

A Scavardo, Lt Col, Ret. 
M Revel, Maj, Ret. 
C Schaepelynck, Col, Ret. 

 
Germany 

Rick Anders. 

 
US 

Walter Elkins 
René Bonniot

 

**** 

 

In particular, I must recognize and thank Mr. Rick Anders from Germany. He generously 
shared with me documentation he collected for his research on the Cold War. Especially 
invaluable are records from the French Army Occupation Records (former FFA) and 
from the East German archives on nuclear matters.  
 
Many thanks also to my good friend and comrade (retired) Major Louis Picard that 
redirected me a couple of times. His knowledge and memory on all things technical 
regarding the French AAA after 1950 is already legendary.

  

 
I must not forget my personal editor: my daughter Marguerite. Our very small investment 
in her college education was repaid with huge dividends. 

 

 

****

 

 

Thousand Oaks, Ca.   
4-2007