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Hermes missile
Hermes B
Hermes B
Credit: © Mark Wade
American tactical ballistic missile. Hermes was a major US Army project to implement German rocket technology after World War II. Development started in 1944 with award to General Electric as the prime contractor. The program was cancelled in 1954 after $ 96.4 million had been spent. Most of this was for naught since the Air Force received the long-range missile assignment in the end.

AKA: Hermes. Status: Retired 1954.

The designs ran the gamut from short range solid propellant rockets through Mach 3 ramjets to intercontinental boost-glide vehicles. General Electric was also responsible for firing captured German V-2 rockets, training Army personnel in their use, and the Bumper project which created a two-stage vehicle using a V-2 and a WAC-Corporal. Hermes A series were US developments of the German Wasserfall rocket; see that entry for details.

On 20 November 1944 the Army's Ordnance Department issued a contract to General Electric for Project Hermes, the development of long-range missiles surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles. With the defeat of Germany on near horizon, this was intended primarily for Americanization and continued development of German technology. In a three-phase program, GE was first to prepare with a comprehensive search of the available literature; then send an engineering group to the future occupied Germany to become familiar with the German missile programs; and finally to develop Americanized experimental versions of the German weapons.

Three categories of missiles were to be developed:

In addition to these ultimate products, GE ended up running a large number of other projects under Hermes once the scope of the German rocket effort was understood:

The Department of the Army invested well over $100 million in the Hermes projects during their 10-year life span. Yet, at the end of that decade there was no Hermes missile system available for production or tactical deployment. As this had been one of the original objectives (the development of a tactical weapon system), how did the Ordnance Department justify this expenditure of research and development funds? The answer may well be found in the contributions it made to the advancing state of the art. Because the General Electric Company began the Hermes project when there was a dearth of basic design information for guided missiles, it performed research as a prerequisite to achieving its goals. In so doing, it discovered and extended basic knowledge in areas such as propulsion systems, rocket fuels, aerodynamics, guidance equipment, and testing equipment. It compiled basic statistics on motor design. It pioneered in producing higher impulse and more efficient rocket fuels. It contrived a method of including, in propellants, silicone additives that deposited protective coatings on the interiors of rocket motors against the corrosive effects of high velocities and temperatures.

Another of its achievements in rocket motors was the hybrid motor which was the first in which the thrust could be controlled by the regulation of the flow of the oxidizing agent into the motor. Through exhaustive aerodynamic studies and tests, it also accumulated technical data used in designing missile airframe structures. Furthermore, the General Electric Company pioneered in the development of guidance equipment to insure greater accuracy of a missile's flight path. It invented a coded, command-guidance radar that was adapted for use in the Corporal system. The first inertial guidance equipment used in any missile system was devised for the Hermes A3. A similar guidance system was later used, effectively, in the Redstone.

Thus, the Ordnance Department could very well have looked upon the Department of the Army's investment in the Hermes projects as one that had paid dividends in knowledge, equipment, and experience even though the desired tactical missile failed to materialize.

Development Cost $: 96.400 million in 1949 dollars.


Hermes B-1 American tactical ballistic missile. Test vehicle for Hermes II Mach 3 ramjet cruise missile. The modified V-2 merely acted as a booster for the 'Ram' second stage.

Hermes C-1 American tactical ballistic missile. The Hermes C1 was a clustered-engine intercontinental ballistic missile proposed by General Electric in June 1946. It was eventually down-scoped to a single-engine tactical missile, which flew as the Redstone in 1953.

Family: tactical ballistic. Country: USA. Agency: GE. Bibliography: 17, 2, 378, 563, 578, 86.

1944 December 1 - . Launch Vehicle: Hermes missile.
1946 January 11 - . Launch Vehicle: Hermes missile.

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