The SNARK missile

The SNARK was an Intercontinental Missile (ICM) which would be launched from the ground by a jet engine assisted by solid rocket boosters. Once the rockets burned out they were jettisoned and the missile cruised to its target at around mach .9 and around 50,000 feet altitude. Close to the target, the payload would separate and free-fall to the target. Built by Northrop, it used a Pratt and Whitney J-57 engine. Snark was also known as SSM-A-3, B-62, and finally SM-62.

Today we'd call this a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM). A supersonic counterpart called Boojum was contemplated but never built.

Training and testing was done at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida where the 556th Strategic Missile Squadron was activated on December 15 1957. They successfully launched their first Snark on June 27 1958. Launch complexes 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral were used (see http://www.fas.org/spp/military/facility/ccas-lc-1.htm).

On January 1 1959 the 702nd Strategic Missile Wing was activated at Presque Isle AFB in Maine which put the first Snark on alert March 18 1960 in spite of having no squadron assigned to it (the 556th SMS was initially assigned to the 702nd SMW but was inactivated July 16 1959, before they could move to Presque Isle; the 556th was re-activated October 1 1961, two and a half months later, and assigned to Plattsburgh AFB in New York to support Atlas F missiles). The wing was declared operational February 28 1961 with four Snarks but was inactivated June 25 1961, less than 4 months later. See http://strategic-air-command.com/wings/0702mw.htm for a very brief history of the 702nd SMW. Snark's slow speed and low altitude made it easy to shoot down compared to the ballistic missiles that replaced it. However, it did establish the feasibility of cruise missiles and it taught Strategic Air Command how to manage and deploy complex weapon systems.

Snark wasn't the most reliable weapon system. The most spectacular failure was in 1956 when a Snark was launched and disappeared after refusing the range destruct signal; it was found by a farmer in Brazil in 1983. So many fell into the Atlantic the phrase "Snark infested waters" became popular. On the other hand, some test missiles were equipped with skids and several actually landed, to be launched again.

Presque Isle AFB was closed shortly after the Snark departed.

Other resources:

Presque Isle Air Force Base was located in northeastern Maine, coordinates 46-42, 68-03. A Google Maps image is here. Presque Isle Air Force Base was retired in 1961 and was converted to a regional airport, technical college, housing area, and industrial park. See: http://victorian.fortunecity.com/stanford/805/. There is also a museum which is dedicated to the 702nd SMW and others who served.