Encyclopedia Astronautica

American surface-to-surface anti-tank missile. Development started in 1953 Program cancelled in 1958 in favor of the the French SS.10.

Dart was an early and enormous - anti-tank missile. Curtiss-Wright's first design proposal in November 1951. After evaluation against the French SS.10, a development contract was issued in April 1953. First launch was in August 1954. The missile was powered by a Grand Central dual-thrust solid-propellant rocket motor and was fired from an M59 truck-mounted launcher. The operator was supposed to optically control the wire-guided missile by siting on a tail-mounted sodium flare. The Dart's large cruciform wings and fins made its mobility questionable. It began to be advertised as an anti-emplacement weapon instead. Development dragged on, and the missile was finally cancelled in September 1958. The SS.10, much more compact and by then operational, was purchased for the Army instead.

Development Cost $: 44.000 million in 1955 dollars. Maximum range: 1.90 km (1.10 mi). Boost Propulsion: Solid rocket. Maximum speed: 1,130 kph (700 mph). Initial Operational Capability: 1958.

Historical Essay © Andreas Parsch

Aerophysics Development SSM-A-23 Dart

In 1951, the U.S. Army issued a requirement for an anti-tank guided missile, and in November 1951, the Aerophysics Development Corp. (a subsidiary of Curtiss-Wright) submitted a design proposal for the Dart wire-guided anti-armour missile. After a feasibility study, and a preliminary evaluation of the French SS.10 missile then in development, Aerophysics received a development contract for the SSM-A-23 Dart in April 1953. The first launch of an XSSM-A-23 prototype occurred in August 1954, followed by about 40 more in the next 12 months.

The XSSM-A-23 was powered by a Grand Central dual-thrust solid-propellant rocket motor, and was fired from an M59 truck-mounted launcher. After launch, the Dart's bright tail-mounted sodium flare was optically tracked by the operator, who would send corrective commands via a spooled-out wire to keep the missile on the line of sight to the target. The Dart had comparatively large cruciform wings and fins for stabilization and control, and used wingtip spoilers for steering. It's maximum range was about 3000 m (10000 ft), and to increase accuracy for long-range shots, an infrared terminal homing device was to be installed. The missile's anti-armour warhead detonated on impact.

The development of the Dart turned out to be much more difficult and expensive than originally expected, and in late 1956 the system was still far from ready for deployment. In fact, Aerophysics was blamed for having grossly underestimated the complexity of the task. In 1957, it was decided to stretch out the development schedule and reduce the requirements, but in September 1958, the Dart program was finally cancelled. By then, the French SS.10 missile was fully developed, and was eventually adopted by the U.S. Army as an interim anti-tank missile system. The SS.10 was not only simpler and more reliable than the SSM-A-23, but its more compact size also made it easier to handle and deploy in the field.


Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for XSSM-A-23:

Length 1.52 m (5 ft)
Wingspan 1.02 m (3 ft 4 in)
Diameter 20.3 cm (8 in)
Weight 45 kg (100 lb)
Speed 965 km-h (600 mph)
Range 3000 m (10000 ft)
Propulsion Grand Central dual-thrust solid-fueled rocket
Warhead Shaped charge anti-armour
Main Sources

[1] Bill Gunston: "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rockets and Missiles", Salamander Books Ltd, 1979
[2] Frederick I. Ordway III, Ronald C. Wakeford: "International Missile and Spacecraft Guide", McGraw-Hill, 1960
[3] Redstone Arsenal Historical Information Website

AKA: SSM-A-23.
Status: Cancelled 1958.
Gross mass: 135 kg (297 lb).
Height: 1.52 m (4.98 ft).
Diameter: 0.20 m (0.65 ft).
Span: 1.07 m (3.51 ft).

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See also
  • missile Guided self-propelled military weapon (as opposed to rocket, an unguided self-propelled weapon). More...

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