Major System Components

•  Talos SAM-N-8 and RIM-8 Missiles
• Talos Guided Missile Launching System GMLS Mk7
• Guidance Radars AN/SPW-2 and AN/SPG-49

Page last updated: 20 Feb 2014

The Talos Missile

Quick Drop-Down Links....
Talos History
Talos Specifications
Talos Dimensions
Operational Data
Talos Dimension Drawing
Other Navy "SAM" Missiles
Structural Test Firing
Dr. Wilbur H. Goss
Talos Videos

A Brief History....


The Talos guided missile, made under a $27,000,000 contract for the Navy by the missile section of the Bendix Aviation Corporation at Mishawaka, Indiana, rang up the curtain on what was a revolutionary era of naval strategy and tactics.

Its performance capabilities raised the air defense of the U.S. fleet to new highs. It could destroy enemy aircraft at stratospheric altitudes, and had a range of more than 65 miles. Adm. Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations called it the "best (anti-aircraft) missile in any arsenal in the world."

The deadly Talos, named after a Greek demigod who guarded Crete, formed the major armament of the cruiser U.S.S. GALVESTON (commissioned May 28, 1958 at the Philadelphia Naval Ship Yard) the first of a fleet of Talos missile cruisers, which will included the first nuclear-powered cruiser Long Beach.
Talos, a supersonic surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missile was designed to provide the Navy with a system of long-range, high firepower defense against air attack - and many "firsts" resulted from its program of development. Its development began with the "Bumblebee" program under the direction of the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University.
The program resulted in an advanced version of the first ram-jet engine; new records in the size and performance of solid-fuel booster rockets; first flights of fully controlled missiles powered by ram-jet engines; first missile to employ a dual-guidance system - with precise accuracy at short and long ranges; and pioneering steps in the introduction of warheads with atomic capabilities.

The 40,000 horsepower rampet engine of Talos permited it to maintain a level flight altitude ceiling higher than that reached by any bomber.


The Talos missile, successfully tested more than a hundred times, was approximately 20 feet long and 30 inches in diameter, and weighed 3000 pounds. The missile was accelerated to a speed faster than a bullet by a solid-fuel rocket booster about 10 feet long. The booster was jettisoned when the Talos reached its cruising speed. At that time the main ramjet engine took over for the duration of the flight.

The Talos ram-jet developed thrust the way a turbojet does. However, unlike a turbojet, it did not require a complex and expensive turbine/compressor for injecting large quantities of air required for the combustion of the Talos fuel - kerosene. The ramjet used the motion of the missile to compress air that entered at the front. Actually, compared to the "diet" of a rocket motor, the 40,000 "horses" in the Talos were "light eaters" - but with the same "kick." Talos needed only one-sixth to one-eighth of the fuel load that a rocket would need to develop the same thrust - or power - for the same length of time.

Also the ramjet engine of the Talos had thrust and speed control through regulation of the rate of fuel injection - similar to the way a carburetor controls the flow of gasoline in your car.

This versatility and reliability of the Talos engine was one of the "breakthrough" achievements in guided-missile technology.


The versatile Talos also was long on "brains" - the missile being guided to its target by an electro-mechanical brain. A proximity fuze detonated the warhead when Talos was within the "kill" range of the target.

Two "brain systems" gave the Talos its capability of high firepower and high accuracy at long range. The first one guided the missile from the launcher to the target area. It is a beam-type of guidance received directly from the launching point, where information on the presence of a hostile target or targets is available from such units as search and tracking radars.
The second or "homing" brain sensed the target, and control of the missile was automatically transferred from the beam brain to the homing brain. These nervous systems contained the latest application to missile design utilizing etched-circuit wiring and modular packaging.

Production of components of the system was based on a semi-automation technique, reducing construction costs. Ease of testing and servicing also was designed into the production process and the missile itself.

Some specifics...

The Navy's SAM-N-6b Talos missile (later designated RIM-8) was a long-range surface-to-air missile, and was one of  the earliest surface-to-air missiles to equip U.S. Navy ships. Talos employed radar beam riding technology for guidance to the vicinity of its target, and then semi-active radar homing for the  terminal guidance phase.

Talos was a development of the Navy's “Bumblebee Project” begun in 1944 under the auspices of the Applied Physics Lab (APL) of the John Hopkins University. The project’s intent was to produce a ram-jet powered anti-aircraft guided missile. The Bumblebee Project  also produced the Navy's Terrier (SAM-N-7 / RIM-2) and Tartar (Mk15 / RIM-24) Missiles.

On July 10, 1951, the first Talos missile was test fired at the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico. The first full Talos prototype (designated XSAM-N-6) flew in October 1952 at WSMR, followed by the first successful target intercept later that year. Talos became fully operational aboard the U.S.S. Galveston CLG-3 in 1959, with Bendix Corporation as the prime contractor for production.

Early Talos missiles used a solid-fuel rocket booster weighing over 4000 lbs, with an approximate three second burn time, to get the missile from launcher to operational speed. A Bendix ramjet then provided sustained flight.  Later boosters had a somewhat extended burn time (5 sec) and propelled the missile to over 1300 mph before the missile and booster separated.

The SAM-N-6b missile was initially equipped with a conventional high explosive (HE) warhead, and later changed over to a more lethal “continuous rod” design. The launching ship's guidance beam enabled the Talos to be guided so as to attack enemy aircraft from above. (An unpleasant surprise to pilots trained to expect SAMs from below.) Four small antennas located every 90 degrees around the nose of the missile acted as receivers for the Semi-Active Radar Homing (SARH) system. Talos missiles without these antennas were nuclear armed missiles equipped with a type W-30 nuclear warhead (2 - 5 kT yield) which, for obvious reasons,  did not need a terminal phase homing. These were designated as SAM-N-6bW.

In 1961 the SAM-N-6b1 and SAM-N-6bW1 (nuclear warhead) variants of Talos became operational. These had almost double the effective range of the SAM-N-6b and SAM-N-6bW. In addition, a new continuous-rod warhead with higher lethality was added.

In that every Talos ship had to carry some nuclear missiles, (although they would probably never be used) it was determined that having separate conventional and nuclear armed missiles was impractical. In 1962 a new SAM-N-6c1 "Unified Talos" was introduced. This model provided for interchangeable warheads, a higher operational ceiling, and a new continuous-wave (CW) radar seeker for improved effectiveness against low-flying targets in the terminal homing phase. Some SAM-N-6b1 missiles were retrofitted with the new CW seeker, and redesignated as SAM-N-6b1(CW).

In 1963 all versions of Talos were redesignated as RIM-8 series. The designations were applied as follows:

Old Designation New Designation
SAM-N-6b1 RIM-8C
SAM-N-6c1 RIM-8E
SAM-N-6b1(CW) RIM-8F

In 1966 the Talos RIM-8G with improved beam-riding guidance became operational.

RGM-8H Talos anti-radiation (HARM) missiles were designed for use against shore-based radar stations. These Talos could be fitted with seekers programmed for various radar frequencies. Flight tests were first performed in 1965. Soon after the RGM-8H was operational, it was used in combat against Vietnamese SAM radars in Vietnam by USS Chicago, USS Oklahoma City, and USS Long Beach. Wikipedia's page on the Oklahoma City states that in "1971 the Oklahoma City fired the first successful combat surface-to-surface missile shot in US Navy history, using the new Talos RIM-8H anti-radiation missile to destroy a North Vietnamese mobile air control radar van". (Various sources say that the event occurred in February.)

The last operational version of Talos was RIM-8J which entered service in 1968 with improved SARH guidance.

The Talos system was initially installed in three converted Cleveland Class light cruisers (USS Galveston CLG-3, USS Little Rock CLG-4, and USS Oklahoma City CLG-5), then in three converted Baltimore Class heavy cruisers (USS Albany CG-10, USS Chicago CG-11, and USS Columbus CG-12) as well as the nuclear-powered cruiser USS Long Beach CGN-9.

Talos missiles were stored, loaded, and launched from specifically designed guided missile launching systems (GMLS's) aboard ship. GMLS Mk 7 was used aboard USS Galveston, Little Rock, and Oklahoma City. The GMLS Mk 12 was used aboard USS Albany, Chicago, Columbus, and Long Beach.  In both systems the missiles were launched from a twin-arm launcher, which was fed from behind.

The first ever "kill" of a hostile aircraft by a missile fired from a ship occurred on May 23, 1968.  On that date a Talos fired from the USS Long Beach shot down a Vietnamese MiG at a range of about 65 miles. A second MiG was reportedly destroyed as it exploded among its debris. In September of that year Long Beach shot down another MiG at a range of 61 miles. On May 9, 1972 another MiG was credited to USS Chicago when her forward Talos battery scored a long-range kill. In total, four MiG kills in South-East Asia can be credited to Talos missiles.

Phase-out of the Talos missile began in 1974. On 6 November 1979 the USS Oklahoma City fired the last Talos missile launched from a ship,
and when the USS Albany, the last operational ship was retired in August 1980, the Talos phase-out was complete. (USS Long Beach remained active but  had her Talos system replaced with Harpoon canister launchers and Tomahawk armored box launchers in the early 1980's.)

A planned replacement for Talos, the SAM-N-8 / RIM-50 Typhon, was also canceled. Eventually General Dynamics’ RIM-67 Standard ER missile supplied the long-range air defense missile needed by the Navy. The remaining Talos missiles were converted to MQM-8G Vandal supersonic targets and successfully used to simulate anti-ship missile threats.

The Navy's Vandal program used the remaining obsolete Talos missiles to provide a Mach 2 supersonic target capable of flying at altitudes ranging from near sea level up to 70,000 feet. These targets were first developed at WSMR and launched from Sulf Site in the 90 mile area and from Pony Site just west of Lake Lucero. Vandals were also launched from Wallops Island, VA and from Barking Sands, Kauai, HI.  At WSMR, Vandals were engaged by Standard Missile, RAM, and by the High Energy Laser.

Talos Missile - General Specifications

Old Designation New Designation Warhead Range Initial Guidance Terminal Guidance
SAM-N-6b RIM-8A HE (High Explosive) 50 nm Beam Riding Passive Homing
SAM-N-6bW RIM-8B Nuclear 50 nm Beam Riding None
SAM-N-6b1 RIM-8C HE Continuous Rod 100 nm Beam Riding Passive Homing
SAM-N-6bW1 RIM-8D Nuclear 100 nm Beam Riding None
(Note 4)
RIM-8C HE Continuous Rod 100 nm Beam Riding Passive Homing
(Note 2)
(Note 1)
RIM-8E Interchangeable 100 nm Beam Riding Passive Homing
(Note 2)
Note 3
RIM-8F Interchangeable 100 nm Beam Riding Passive Homing
(Note 2)
RIM-8G Interchangeable 100 nm Beam Riding Passive Homing
(Note 2)
(Note 5)
Interchangeable 100 nm Beam Riding  Active Anti-Radar
RIM-8J Interchangeable 100 nm Beam Riding Passive Homing
 (Note 2)

Notes for above chart....
Note 1.
Referred to as "Unified Talos" because of interchangeable Warheads.
Note 2. Significantly improved Homing System.
Note 3. "SAM" designations discontinued in 1963.
Note 4. Some SAM-N-6b1 missiles were modified to have an improved Homing System. These were designated SAM-N-6b1(CW).
Note 5. "RIM"   =  Rocket / Interception / Ground Launched
"RGM" =  Rocket / Surface Attack / Ground Launched, Mobile

Talos Missile and Booster Dimensions

Missile Length:
21 ft.
Booster Length:
11 ft.
110 in.
Fin Span (Booster):
81 in.
Missile Diameter:
28 in.
Booster Diameter:
30 in.
Missile Weight:
3400 lb.
Booster Weight:
4400 lb

Talos Missile and Booster Operational Data

Mach 2.5
Altitude Ceiling:
80000 ft.
Range RIM-8A, 8B
50 nm
Range RIM-8C thru -8J
100 nm
Missile Propulsion:
Ramjet (JP-5 Liquid Fuel)
Booster Propulsion (3 sec.):
Solid-fuel rocket
High Explosive (HE),
Continuous-rod,  or Nuclear

Talos Missile Dimensions Drawing

Talos Dim. Dwg.

Talos Compared to Other U.S. Navy SAM's

Navy Missiles

Test Firing a "Slug"

Photo of Test No. 3

Report of


/s/ R. H. LYDDANE Technical Director


    Six TALOS Mk 11 Mod 2 boosters with concrete slugs were fired aboard the USS LITTLE ROCK (CLG-4) to investigate the adequacy of the protection for the TALOS launching system personnel against blast effects and to determine the effects of the booster blast on the ship's structure. The test vehicles were fired at various angles such that the exhaust stream was directed at areas where damage, flame, or toxic gas leakage had occurred during the structural firing tests aboard the USS GALVESTON (CLG-3).    These tests were also utilized to evaluate the design changes in the ship's structural components that were necessitated by the results of the GALVESTON tests. Measurements were made of pressures in the exhaust stream, structural strains, toxic gas concentrations, noise levels, flame penetrations at door seals and temperature changes inside the ship. High-speed motion pictures were taken on all tests.

    The results indicated gas and flame leakage around the blast doors, toxic gas leakage into the ventilation systems, and minor structural damage to equipment mounted on the sides of the missile house and the main deck. A detailed description of all data obtained and ship damage incurred is included in this report.


    This is the final report on the TALOS Structural Firing Tests Aboard the USS LITTLE ROCK (CLG-4) conducted under BUWEPS Task Assignment No. 512-535/55008/69-064 Amendments No. 1 and 2 of 17 June 1959 and 10 August 1960, respectively. These tests were performed as part of the BUWEPS Ship Qualification Tests for the USS LITTLE ROCK,(CLG-4) conducted by the Applied Physics Laboratory of the John Hopkins University (APL/JHU) for the Bureau of Naval Weapons and in accordance with Test 8 of the test program, reference (a). These tests were conducted to determine the effects of the TALOS booster blast on the ship's structure, and to establish the adequacy of protection for the TALOS launching system personnel against blast effects.

    This report was reviewed by the following members of the Weapons Development and Evaluation Laboratory:

    J. J. WALSH, Head, Physical Projects Section
    D. C. ROSS, Head, Experimental Branch
    H. R. PRYOR, Head, Development Division
    D. W. STONER, Deputy Director
    M. W. WHITAKER, Captain, USN, Director


    Before assigning personnel to operational areas in the proximity of the TALOS launcher, it was necessary to determine whether the structures provide adequate protection from the booster blast. In order to deter- mine the effects of the booster blast on the ship's structure, Launcher Test Vehicles (LTV), each composed of a Mk 11 Mod 2 booster with a concrete slug, were fired at various angles such that the exhaust stream was directed at areas where damage, flame or toxic gas leakage had occurred during the structural firing tests aboard the USS GALVESTON (CLG-3). These tests also served to evaluate the design changes in the ship's structural components that were dictated by the results of the blast tests conducted aboard the GALVESTON. Tests were also conducted to determine the adequacy of the door seals, ports, and equipment exposed to the direct booster blast. Detailed test objectives are given in the test plan, reference (a), and repeated in Appendix A.

    The tests also determined the effects of the booster blast on an instrumented simulated emergency igniter injector unit for the TALOS launching system. The results of the igniter injector unit tests were reported in reference (b).

    On board the USS LITTLE ROCK (CLG-4) were instrumentation teams for measuring toxic gas concentrations, noise pressure levels, structural strains, pressures in the exhaust stream, structural accelerations and temperature changes inside ship compartments, for providing high-speed photographic coverage, and for observing the extent of flame entrance at door seals. The instrumentation was moved for each test in order to make all measurements in the same configuration with respect to the impingement areas. The detailed test results are grouped according to type of measurement, rather than by test. This arrangement avoids repeated references to the type of measurement considered.

    An assist ship, USS SHAKORI (ATF-162), was in close company and furnished over--all high-speed photographic coverage of the booster exhaust stream.


    The instrumentation was installed and operated by Naval Weapons Laboratory personnel with the assistance of members of the ship's company assigned to the various groups. The equipment used to record pressure, strain and temperature was installed in a 28' x 8' instrumentation trailer located on the starboard side of the 02 level at approximately Frame 95.  Signal cables were connected between the instrumentation trailer and the transducers, which were located throughout the after part of the ship at the areas under test. For each test a TALOS Mk 11 Mod 2 booster with a concrete slug was launched from either the "A" rail or the "B" rail of the Mk 7 Mod 0 Guided Missile Launcher.

    The launcher angles, impingement areas, and the sequence in which the tests were conducted are indicated in the table below:

Date Rail
(Note 2)
Elevation Impingement Area
144º 44’ 14º
Missile House Observation Port.
156º 05'
Slanting bulkhead two feet aft of Door (D-1-119-2)
207º 59' 10º52' Main Deck Frame 121 Starboard side
8-30-60 B
220º 58' 10º
Starboard Blast Door
8-30-60 A
43º Deck aft of launcher
8-30-60 A
75º Deck forward of launcher

Notes:  (1)  The tests were conducted as part of the BUWEPS Ship Qualification Tests for guided missile ships and were fired in the
                     Virginia Capes Operational Area.

              (2)  Missile Launcher Rail "A" is the starboard launcher rail, and Rail "B" is the port launcher

Talos Slug Test

The above photo of a STRUCTURAL FIRING TEST most likely shows Test #3 which was conducted on 29 Aug 1960. The photo dramatically shows a "slug" being launched from the "A" (starboard) missile launcher rail. For this test the launcher was trained at 207° 59' (relative), at an elevation of 10° 52'. This test, one of six, was conducted to check for blast damage and/or gas leakage in the vicinity of Main Deck Frame 121 on the starboard side of the ship. (Click photo to enlarge it.)

Note the large white Instrumentation Trailer located on the starboard side of the 02 level.

The close-up photo of the booster/slug combination shown at the top of this article shows there were no control surfaces (fins) on the slug, however there were stabilizing fins on the booster. No guidance or control of the slug was provided. Once the booster's propellant was exhausted (about 3 seconds) the booster/slug combination continued on it's trajectory until it fell into the sea.

Wilbur H. Goss



Dr. Wilbur H. Goss, Supervisor of the APL Talos Division, was largely responsible for turning the ramjet from a theory in physics into an operating propulsion unit for supersonic missiles.

Dr. Goss' great talent as a creative, yet highly practical physicist, is matched by his ability as a leader. The enthusiasm and vigor with which he attacks each problem is an inspiration to his associates. His ability to assign, evaluate and coordinate their work made possible the historic first flight of a ramjet and has guided its improvement to the extent it has become one of the most important scientific developments of the post war period, as demonstrated In Bumblebee's Talos guided missile.

Dr. Goss was born in Tacomca, Washington, on June 16, 1911. He received his bachelor of science degree (magna cum laude) from the College of Puget Sound in 1932 and his doctor of philosophy degree in physics from the University of Washington, in 1939, while on a teaching fellowship there. He was Assistant Professor of Physics at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts, 1940-1942. He was also a visiting lecturer at the University of British Columbia in 1940 and the summer of 1941.

He joined the staff of the Applied Physics Laboratory in 1942 at the height of the proximity fuze development program. Initially he worked on quality control fuze problems and later headed the fuze research group which at that time was focusing its attention on the adaptation of the fuze for use in guns of the American and British armies, and the British Navy. Eventually the earlier fuzes were modified for American naval anti-aircraft use.

He likewise had an important part in the development of a torpedo exploder. This project was jointly assigned to APL and a group at the University of Washington, Seattle.

When, at the request of the Navy Bureau of Ordnance late in 1944, the Laboratory turned its attention to the development of guided missiles, Dr. Goss took a leading part in the critical guided missile analysis which led to the inception of the Bumblebee program and to the recognition of the ramjet as the most promising propulsive system of supersonic missiles. Under his leadership of an empirical flight test program of ramjet models, a successful performance was achieved in less than six months after the project was started.

He was co-designer with Dr. David H. Sloan, then a member of the APL staff, of the ramjet model which first demonstrated in free flight, at Island Beach, New Jersey in October, 1945, a thrust greater than its aerodynamic drag.

By subsequent designs of means of fuel and air flow controls, he made possible the development of the first simple model into present types which have a much higher degree of thrust control and furnish the propulsive unit of the Talos missile.

Rear Admiral F. I. Entwistle, when Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance and Director of its Research and Development Division, in the course of a speech in New York, referred to Dr. Goss as "..the father of the, ramjet."

Dr. Goss was awarded the Presidential Certificate of Merit for his work during World War II.

Some neat videos of the Talos Missile and other Missiles....
•   Check out this great 8mm film of three Talos missile launches from USS Little Rock CLG 4 on
     24 Aug 65 made by shipmate William L. Passauer FTM3 (now FTCS-Ret).  YouTube Link  
•   How Talos was handled aboard ship: See the Defense Atomic Support Agency's Training Film Bulletin
    Number 45, Part II - "Talos Missile Handling Cruiser Installation" (Film #0800049).  YouTube Link 
•   Some great Navy missile information can be seen on Periscope Film's film #2114 "MISSILES OF THE
" (PART 1 of 2) on this YouTube video.
•   And more great Navy missile information can be seen on Periscope Film's Film #2114 "MISSILES OF
" (PART 2 of 2) on this YouTube video.
•   From the APL Vault is the video "Bumblebee" a film about the U.S. Navy's first supersonic surface-to-air
     missile program.  See it on YouTube
•   From by WDTVLIVE42, a documentary film "Weapons That Work - 1967 United States Navy
     Missile Systems
".  Also on YouTube.

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