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Sprint missile in flight

Sprint Missile
Technical Summary
Manufacturer Martin Marietta
First stage Hercules X-265
2,900 kN (650,000 lbf)
Second stage Hercules X-271
Length 8.20 m overall
Diameter 1.35 m
Mass 3500 kg
Range 40 km
Ceiling 30 km
Max Speed >Mach 10 (7,500 mph)
Guidance system Radio Command
Warhead W66 nuclear low kt,
enhanced radiaton
Introduction date: IOC:1972

The Sprint was a two-stage, solid-fuel anti-ballistic missile, armed with a W66 enhanced radiation thermonuclear warhead. It was designed as the short-range high-speed counterpart to the longer-range LIM-49 Spartan as part of the Sentinel program. Sentinel never became operational, but the technology was deployed briefly in a downsized version called the Safeguard program. The Sprint, like the Spartan, was in operational service for only a few months in the Safeguard program, from October 1975 to early 1976. A combination of high costs, congressional opposition, and questionable efficacy resulted in a very short operational period.

The Sprint accelerated at 100 g, reaching a speed of Mach 10 in 5 seconds.[citation needed] It was designed for close-in defense against incoming nuclear weapons. As the last line of defense it was to intercept the reentry vehicles that had not been destroyed by the Spartan, with which it was deployed.

The conical Sprint was stored in and launched from a silo. To make the launch as quick as possible, the cover was blown off the silo by explosive charges, then the missile was ejected by an explosive-driven piston. As the missile cleared the silo, the first stage fired and the missile was tilted toward its target. The first stage was exhausted after only 1.2 seconds, but produced 2,900 kN (650,000 lbf) of thrust. The second stage fired within 1 – 2 seconds of launch. Interception at an altitude of 1,500 m to 30,000 m took at most 15 seconds.

The Sprint was controlled by ground-based radio command, which tracked the incoming reentry vehicles with phased-array radar and guided the missile to its target.

The Sprint was armed with an enhanced radiation nuclear warhead with a yield reportedly of a few kilotons, though the exact number has not been declassified. The warhead was intended to destroy the incoming reentry vehicle primarily by neutron flux.


  • A Sprint missile is on display at the Air Defense Artillery Museum in Fort Bliss, Texas.

See also


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