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Hawk Missile System (MIM-23)

The MIM-23 Homing-All-the-Way-Killer (HAWK) missile system is a medium-range, surface-to-air guided missile system designed for air defense. The supersonic Hawk is effective against low-to-medium altitude (100 to 38,000 feet) aircraft and some short-range ballistic missiles. It was designed to work in concert with the NIKE missile with the NIKE targeting high-altitude threats, above the range of Hawk.

A MIM-23 Hawk missile is fired from its M192 launcher, Launch Complex 32, White Sands Missile Range, NM, 29 November 1979
A MIM-23 Hawk missile is fired from its M192 launcher, Launch Complex 32, White Sands Missile Range, NM, 29 November 1979.

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19 Apr 1944 Japanese launch Operation ICHIGO, the first Japanese ground offensive in China since December 1941.
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History of the MIM-23 Hawk Missile System

MIM-23 Hawk air defense missiles on M192 trailer launcher, U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Museum, Fort Sill, OK. The Hawk missiles are carried on an M192 towed triple-missile launcher
MIM-23 Hawk air defense missiles on M192 trailer launcher, U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Museum, Fort Sill, OK. The Hawk missiles are carried on an M192 towed triple-missile launcher.

The Hawk Missile System was first fired during development in 1955. In May 1958, a HAWK missile successfully engaged an F80 jet target flying at treetop level at White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico, the first intercept of very low altitude aircraft by a missile. It was initially deployed by the U.S. Army in 1959, and by the US Marine Corps in 1960. After deployment, the Hawk was continually upgraded during its service life. The HAWK was deployed by the US Marines at Da Nang and Hill 327, in Vietnam, both the initial USMC deployment of the Hawk and also the first deployment of the Hawk in Vietnam. Following the Persian Gulf War, reports stated that the Hawk downed several enemy aircraft. The Hawk missile system was removed from US Army inventory in the 1980s and USMC by 2002, but remained an active system for decades in at least sixteen other countries. Hawk has been credited with over 80 aircraft kills by US allies.

MIM-23 Hawk Missile System Description and Components

Ground view of a mobile MIM-23 Hawk missile site control complex at Ranger Camp, Elgin AFB, FL, 4 August 1980. Radar units and gen-sets are carried in trailers. The M814 truck is the extra long wheel base (XLWB) model of the M809 series of 5 ton trucks. It is utilized to transport electronics, material, personnel and MIM-23 Hawk missile system components
Ground view of a mobile MIM-23 Hawk missile site control complex at Ranger Camp, Elgin AFB, FL, 4 August 1980. Radar units and gen-sets are carried in trailers. The M814 truck is the extra long wheel base (XLWB) model of the M809 series of 5 ton trucks. It is utilized to transport electronics, material, personnel and MIM-23 Hawk missile system components.

Highly mobile, Hawk is transportable by vehicles, fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. The Hawk is employed as a platoon consisting of an acquisition radar, a tracking radar, an identification friend-or-foe (IFF) system, and up to six launchers with three missiles each. The missile is highly reliable, accurate and lethal.

The Hawk missile system upgrade phases included these major changes over a period of almost 40 years:

  • Original Hawk, deployed 1959
  • Improved Hawk (I-Hawk), deployed 1972
  • PIP Phase I, deployed 1979
  • PIP Phase II, deployed 1983
  • PIP Phase III, deployed 1989

PIP is Product Improvement Plan, each incorporating multiple upgrades and changes to the base system.

While generally understood to be rugged and reliable, one weakness of the Hawk missile system was complexity of siting. Hawk batteries had strict requirements for locating sites with optimum line-of-sight visibility. Even with computer-assisted planning systems, siting the batteries was a time-consuming task. Reliability was also an issue. Early versions of the Hawk had vacuum tube-based electronics, relatively unreliable until replaced with solid-state upgrades.

USMC XM-501E2 loader/transporter for the MIM-23 Hawk missile, Cherry Point, NC, 20 June 1979
USMC XM-501E2 loader/transporter for the MIM-23 Hawk missile, Cherry Point, NC, 20 June 1979.

Hawk missiles are transported, loaded and launched from two specialized vehicles: the trailer-mounted M192 Hawk Transporter/Launcher and the tracked M501 (XM501E3, XM501L1) Hawk Loader/Transporter. The missiles were mounted in groups of three.

The Hawk missile system cost approximately $25 million for a battery that could fire 48 missiles.

MIM-23 Hawk was superseded by the MIM-104 Patriot by 1994, in the US Army.

Find additional photos and hi-res versions of the MIM-23 Hawk Missile System) at the Olive-Drab Military Mashup:

U.S. Army personnel from Btry. C, 21st Air Defense Arty., 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, deploy an MIM-23B Hawk surface-to-air missile system in the desert during Operation Desert Shield.  The Hawk missiles are carried on an M192 towed triple-missile launcher.
MIM-23 Hawk air defense missiles on M192 trailer launcher, U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Museum, Fort Sill, OK.  The Hawk missiles are carried on an M192 towed triple-missile launcher.
Hawk, White Sands Missile Range, NM. Designed to supplement the Nike missile systems, this air-defense missile was capable of knocking out aircraft flying anywhere between 100 and 38,000 feet. Highly mobile, this system could be transported by helicopter and was also used by the U.S. Marine Corps and a host of foreign countries. U.S. ArmyLength: 16 feetDiameter: 14 inchesWeight: 1,275 poundsPropellant: SolidRange: 6 milesFirst Firing: 1955
3d Mar Div Hawk Missile sites protect airfield at Da Nang, South Vietnam, 13 March 1965.
U.S. Army personnel from Btry. C, 21st Air Defense Arty., 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, deploy an MIM-23B Hawk surface-to-air missile system in the desert during Operation Desert Shield.  The Hawk missiles are carried on an M192 towed triple-missile launcher.
A female U.S. Army soldier carries test equipment away after inspecting MIM-23B Hawk missiles on an M192 towed launcher, Black Forest, April 1981.

Hawk Missile System (MIM-23) Characteristics

Developed ByRaytheon for U.S. Army
Length16 feet
Diameter16 inches
Weight1,275 pounds
Range6 miles
EngineSolid propellant. Originally Aerojet M22E7, followed by M22E8 and M112
  

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