The MGM-18 Lacrosse was a surface to surface ballistic missile meant for close tactical support of ground troops. An all-weather weapon the Lacrosse was able to strike hard targets with conventional or nuclear warheads as a replacement for conventional artillery units. Featuring a self-propelled launcher Lacrosse was meant to be highly mobile and available for assignment as core artillery.
Designed to be guided by forward controllers that could monitor its flight and send it corrections the Lacrosse’s accuracy depended entirely on the controllers. In theory a highly accurate missile that could be brought directly down upon a target would be more effective than a conventional artillery unit that fired salvos of unguided shells. The main problem was that the radio signals that guided the Lacrosse were easily jammed. If electronic countermeasures were successfully used against the Lacrosse while it was in-flight a nuclear warhead could be flying out of control near friendly troops it was meant to support. Enhanced guidance systems were considered that might have offered better protection against electronic countermeasures but were never successfully developed. As such the Lacrosse was not considered reliable enough to remain in service and was retired after only 5 years in the field.
While this missile was not an operational success its development helped to learn valuable lessons which are even now being applied to tactical supporting guided missiles today.
Patch of the 5th Battalion, 41st Artillery which was equipped with Lacrosse
Introducing the Lacrosse
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.