A group of company grade and non-commissioned officers†from the Air Force Research Laboratory Detachment 7†painted the Douglas PGM-17A “Thor” at the Air Force Flight Test Museum Sept. 20.
According to 1st Lt. Jonathan Fullenkamp, Advanced Tactical Booster Technology Demonstrator deputy program manager , the paint job was part two of the project. Volunteers, led by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Page and Staff Sgt. Timothy Burkins, came out earlier in the year to give it a pressure wash and primer coat.
Thor is now painted in its original white paint scheme. Fullenkamp explained that Thor was the predecessor to Atlas, Peacekeeper and Minuteman missiles.
“Back in the 1950s this was prime technology,” said Fullenkamp. “But its range is much shorter than what we can do today.”
Thor is an operational intermediate range ballistic missile that is 65 feet long and weighs 105,000 pounds. The missile used a single-stage North American Rocketdyne LR-79 liquid oxygen rocket motor which provided 150,000 pounds of static thrust giving Thor a range of 2,000 miles. The motor was tested extensively at Edwards AFB’s†Rocket Propulsion Laboratory.
The SM-75/PGM-19A Thor intermediate range ballistic missile was the product of the early Cold War race to deploy nuclear armed missiles before the Soviets. Thor was designed to be an interim nuclear deterrent while the U.S. Air Force developed long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles as a top national priority. The IRBM concept called for a missile with a range of about 1,500 miles that would be based in Europe. Great Britain agreed to host four IRBM bases, and Thors were operational in England from June 1959 to August 1963. Royal Air Force crews operated the missiles, but U.S. Air Force personnel controlled their nuclear warheads.
The first successful launch was in 1957 and it went into active military service the following year. It was launched from a combination transporter-erector vehicle and was directed to its target by a self-contained inertial guidance system.
“Because we’re so far separated, we try to use these volunteer opportunities to stay connected with the Edwards community as a whole,” said Fullenkamp. “With AFRL being a tenant unit and 30 miles away sometimes we lose sight of what’s going on down here and vice versa so we try to use these opportunities to stay connected.”