UGM-27 Polaris - Polaris A-1

Polaris A-1

The first version, the Polaris A-1, had a range of 1000 nautical miles (1853 km) and a single Mk 1 re-entry vehicle, carrying a single W-47-Y1 600 kt nuclear warhead, with an inertial guidance system which provided a Circular error probable (CEP) of 1800 meters (6000 ft). The two-stage solid propellant missile had a length of 28.5 ft (8.69 m), a body diameter of 54 in (1.37 m), and a launch weight of 28,800 lbs (13,090 kg).

The USS George Washington was the first fleet ballistic missile submarine (SSBN in U.S. naval terminology) and she and all of the other Polaris submarines carried 16 missiles. Forty more SSBNs were launched in 1960 to 1966.

Work on its W47 nuclear warhead began in 1957 at the facility that is now called the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory by a team headed by Edward Teller and Harold Brown. The Navy accepted delivery of the first 16 warheads in July 1960. On May 6, 1962, a Polaris A-2 missile with a live W47 warhead was tested in Operation Dominic in the central Pacific Ocean, the only American test of a live strategic nuclear missile.

The two stages were both steered by thrust vectoring. Inertial navigation guided the missile to about a 900 m (3,000 foot) CEP, insufficient for use against hardened targets. They were mostly useful for attacking dispersed military surface targets (airfields or radar sites), clearing a pathway for heavy bombers, although in the general public perception Polaris was a strategic second-strike retaliatory weapon.

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