If you do a Google search on the Talos Defense Unit at White Sands Proving Grounds, you have to look really hard to find any mention of Radio Corporation of America (RCA) having had any part of the program. Bendix Corporation built the Talos missile. According to the sparse documentation on the development of the AN/FPS−16 monopulse radar, it was the brainchild of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory; (Washington, D.C.) and built by RCA in Moorestown, New Jersey. This 1958 Radio & TV News magazine article claims the FPS−16 was developed with a lot of input from Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) of Johns Hopkins University, but the Wikipedia webpage makes no mention of it. The FPS−16 had the highest spatial resolution of its time at 0.15° and 4.5 meters. It operated at 5400-5900 MHz (C−band) with a peak power of 1.3 MW. The system was trusted and revered enough that it was chosen as the primary tracking radar for NASA's Project Mercury; manned space flight program. Posting articles like this one from vintage magazines provides valuable information to researchers searching for historical data that might not be incorporated into other sources where their authors have either missed points of interest or have decided to omit them for purposes of brevity.
World's Most Accurate Radar
Close-up view of the antenna pedestal of the highly accurate instrumentation radar.
Helps RCA Win Navy award for first wholly automatic missile firing and guidance system.
Award of the prized Navy Certificate of Merit to Radio Corporation of America for development of the first completely automatic missile firing and guidance system was announced recently. The newly created award is the highest civilian honor the Navy can bestow. The missile system cited is the Talos Defense Unit, built at White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico by RCA. One of the largest and most comprehensive electronic weapon systems ever devised, the Talos unit is now undergoing evaluation by the Army. The complex system was brought to the evaluation stage in one-half the time normally required for a project of this magnitude. All features of the system have been tested satisfactorily.
The "all-seeing eye" of the defense unit is the precision type AN/FPS-16 radar. This unit is the result of a ten-year program of research and development carried out in conjunction with the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University. The new radar, designed especially for guided missile test range use, will supplement or replace the less accurate World War II surplus radar which has been in use since 1945 at the several proving grounds of the Department of Defense. The radar is also being used for the Vanguard Satellite Program.
Talos missile being fired during test at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The target drone, flying far down range at medium altitude, was shot down.
The instrument, which can be controlled by a single operator, will automatically acquire targets designated by the operator or other equipment on the range and, having acquired its target, the radar will track automatically in all three coordinates. It can also be used to control the flight of drone aircraft during all-weather, or day or night use. The position accuracy exceeds that of any other known radar, permitting the pinpointing of a target within 1/200th of the radar beam width. At present the unit can track aircraft or missiles to about 290 statute miles, with a possible increase to beyond 500 miles by the addition of a modification. The radar furnishes digital data accurate to few feet in range and 1/200th of a degree in angle, for instantaneous use by automatic digital computers. Special built-in test equipment can locate trouble sources, and repairs can be made in minutes due to the ready availability of each chassis.
Heart of the Talos Defense Unit is the Fire Control Center. The main console (center, rear) uses 3·color video display system based on color television technique.
Posted January 16, 2020