A Moment in Air Force History

This week’s article is about single-engine, pilot-less bombers.
That was their 1950’s designation, complete with aircraft tail numbers. Later they became more widely known as Tactical Missiles.

The two types of missiles based in Germany back then were the MATADOR and the MACE.

The MATADOR B-61 (later TM-61), flew at about 200 mph, and was capable of delivering a 3,000 pound warhead, 620 miles down range.

The MATADOR’s radio guidance system limited its usefulness, and it was phased out for the internally guided MACE TM-76. The internally guided MACE was more accurate and faster (650 mph) and the ‘B’ models extended its effective range out to 1,400 miles. From the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, roughly 200 of these nuclear/conventional capable missiles were maintained in Germany.

Based out of Bitburg Air Base, Hahn Air Base and Sembach Air Base, for most of this period, the missile units were all attached to one missile wing, headquartered at Sembach AB—the 38th Tactical Missile Wing. (The predecessor to the current 38th Combat Support Wing.

Both MATADOR and MACE programs had their shortcomings, but as the Quick Reaction Alert Force, they helped maintain peace in early Cold War Europe. The last Tactical Missile Squadron in Germany was inactivated in 1969, as the U.S. Army’s Pershing Missiles took over the watch.
(Courtesy of 435th Air Base Wing and 86th Airlift Wing History offices)