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MGM-18 (M4) Lacrosse
MGM-18 Lacrosse 02.jpg
MGM-18 Lacrosse on an XM-398 Launcher
Type Tactical ballistic missile
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1959–1964
Used by United States Army
Wars Cold War
Production history
Designer Johns Hopkins University, Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory
Designed 1947–1956
Manufacturer The Glenn L. Martin Company
Produced 1959–1964
Number built Nearly 1200[1]
Weight 2,300 pounds (1,000 kg)[2]
Length 19 feet 2.4 inches (5.852 m)[2]
Diameter 20.5 inches (520 mm)[2]

Maximum range 12 miles (19 km)[2]
Warhead Explosive or Nuclear
Warhead weight 540 pounds (240 kg)[2]
Blast yield Explosive or 1.5–10 kt Nuclear using the W40 nuclear warhead [3]

Wingspan 9 feet (2.7 m)[2]
Propellant Thiokol XM10 or XM10E1 solid-fuel rocket[2]
Speed mach 0.8[2]
Radio Command guidance
XM-398 transporter/launcher truck[2]

The MGM-18 Lacrosse was a short-ranged tactical ballistic weapon intended for close support of ground troops.[4] Its first flight test was in 1954 and was deployed by the United States Army beginning in 1959, despite being still in the development stage. The program's many technical hurdles proved too difficult to overcome and the missile was withdrawn from field service by 1964.



The Lacrosse project began with a United States Marine Corps requirement for a short-range guided missile to supplement conventional field artillery. The Navy's Bureau of Ordnance issued contracts to both the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory in September 1947, for the study of design aspects pertaining to this mission.

The missile system was named the Lacrosse because it employed a forward observation station which had a direct view of the target. The forward observation station was mounted on a jeep and after the missile was launched control was passed to the forward station for final guidance to the target. Hence the name Lacrosse which is how the game of lacrosse is played with the ball being passed to players closer to the goal.

In 1950, the project was transferred from the Navy to the Army's Ordnance Corps and Redstone Arsenal, pursuant to a policy giving the Department of the Army responsibility over all land-based short ranged weapons. Cornell and Johns Hopkins continued with the project, with the former having primary responsibility for guidance systems design.

In 1955, the Glenn L. Martin Company was awarded contracts to participate in research and development and production. Martin would take over much responsibility for the project, as Cornell moved to work on expanding the missile's capabilities beyond the original requirements (particularly in the area of airborne control, funding for which was discontinued in 1959).

Early testing began in 1954 and production prototypes were available the next year. The difficulties encountered by the project are illustrated by the protracted design and testing periods, with the missile not entering into service until July 1959. Problems included reliability concerns and difficulties with guidance, particularly susceptibility to ECM jamming of the guidance signals.

In 1956, the Federal Telecommunications Laboratory began work on a different guidance system, known as MOD 1, which would have improved Lacrosse's performance with regards to electronic countermeasures. MOD 1, however, was terminated in 1959, causing the Marines to withdraw their participation in the project. The first units received Lacrosse in 1959, though the system would continue to be in need of development and refinement.

Nearly 1,200 Lacrosse missiles were produced and deployed at a cost of more than US$2 billion in 1996 dollars (excluding the cost of the nuclear warheads).[1]

MGM-18 Lacrosse model displayed at the White Sands Missile Range Museum Missile Park


The first unit to be equipped with Lacrosse was 5th Battalion, 41st Artillery, based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. In total, eight battalions would be equipped with Lacrosse, with most going to Europe, except one to Korea and one retained by the Strategic Army Corps.


The original Navy project was assigned the designator SSM-N-9. When transferred to the Army, the program became SSM-G-12, which changed to SSM-A-12 after minor changes in the Army's designation scheme. When adopted into service, the weapon system was referred to as M-4 and only gained its MGM-18A designation months before being declared obsolete.[2]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Lacrosse Missile (MGM-18)". U.S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution. August 1998. Archived from the original on September 10, 2011. Retrieved October 11, 2011. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Parsch, Andreas (26 January 2002). "Martin SSM-A-12/M4/MGM-18 Lacrosse". Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles. Retrieved October 11, 2011. 
  3. "List of All U.S. Nuclear Weapons"
  4. Knight, Clayton (1969). Blackwood, Dr. Paul E.. ed. The How and Why Wonder Book of Rockets and Missiles. How and Why Wonder Books. 5005 (4 ed.). New York: Grosset & Dunlap. p. 6. ASIN B0007FD82K. LCCN 71124649. 

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