The TM-61 Matador was created to provide a surface to surface missile with a 500+ mile range and was the Air Force´s first operational missile. Matador leaped off its launch rails using a solid fuel rocket booster allowing it to take off without a runway. In-flight the Matador used a turbojet to reach its target.
This large missile was about the same size and weight of a small jet fighter of its era and it was capable of carrying a conventional or nuclear warhead. However it suffered from a guidance problem in that it was controlled via line of sight radar which had a maximum range of 250 miles. The missile could fly twice the distance of this guidance scheme preventing it from achieving accuracy at its full range potential. To compensate for this short-coming a relay approach was developed in which control stations would pass control to one another of a missile in-flight to extend the control range. These “hand-offs” were no always successful so new methods of control were explored.
To extend the effective range of the missile a new on-board guidance system was created and the missiles fitted with this system were designated as the TM-76 Mace. From the exterior the Matador and the Mace appeared to be very similar with all the important differences inside. This addition allowed the missile to be directed by radar until it reached the edge of the radar’s range at which time the onboard guidance system would take over for the rest of the flight.
Some of these missiles were used as target drones as their size and speed was similar to aircraft.
Guided Missiles: Theory of Operation: This training film explains the theory and principles of guided missiles, the various missile engines, and how guided missiles are used during the time period the film was made.