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Thor Missile
    Thor was the free world's first operational intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM).  It was 65 feet long, 8 feet in diameter and weighed 105,000 pounds.  Douglas Aircraft was the prime aircraft contractor.  The missile utilized a single stage North American Rocketdyne LR-79 liquid oxygen rocket motor, which provided 150,000 lbs of static thrust.  This gave the Thor of range of 2,000 miles. It had an inertial guidance system.
     Development was rapid.  The Thor entered active military service in September 1958.  It was delivered to Cape Canaveral, Florida, for testing less than a year after the development contract was signed.  It was launched from a combination transporter-erector vehicle and was directed to its target by a self-contained inertial guidance system.  It was originally designated the SM-75, but later redesignated the PGM-17A.  
     The Thor's 2,000 mile range was too limited for launching from the United States, so it essentially turned the deployment over to the United Kingdom.  In early 1958, the two countries entered into an agreement whereby the US would furnish the missiles and train the RAF launch crews and the United Kingdom would build four Thor missile bases and man them with RAF missile squadrons.
     Thor missiles were assigned to the Strategic Air Command.   SAC activated the new 705th Strategic Missile Wing at Lakenheath RAF Station on February 20, 1958, and assigned it to the 7th Air Division  It was soon moved to South Ruislip where it merged with Headquarters 7th Air Division.  The 705th was essentially a "paper organization."  It had no missiles and was manned by 7th Air Division additional personnel.   Thor training for RAF crews  was provided by the 392nd Missile Training Squadron, which was activated at Vandenberg on 15 Sept. 1957  
        Training proceeded rapidly.  On April 16, 1959, an RAF crew launched it's first Thor as part of the training program. By end of the year, three squadrons of Thor IRBMs had been turned over to Royal Air Force and were operational in the United Kingdom.  On April 22, 1960, the fourth and final Thor squadron was manned and activated.  The Royal Air Force maintained them in a combat-ready state.
     The development of more advanced missiles resulted in the Thor being retired from military service in 1963.  However, some of the missiles were modified and used extensively for space research, either as a single-stage booster or in combination with various types of upper stages for such projects as the Tiros, Telstar, Pioneer, and Discoverer programs.  The RAF Squadrons are listed below.
Unit Station Qty SAC Turnover Indactivated
77th RAF SMS RAF Feltwell 15 June 22, 1959 July 1, 1963
  7th RAF SMS RAF Hemswell 15 Sept. 11, 1959 May 15, 1963
  8th RAF SMS RAF Driffield 15 Dec. 22, 1959 April 1963
44th RAF SMS RAF N. Luffenham 15 April 29, 1960 Sept. 1963

Length: 64 ft. 10 in.
Diameter: 8 ft. 0 in.
Weight: 109,330 lbs. at launch
Armament: Nuclear warhead
Engine: Rocketdyne liquid-propellant
Thrust:: 150,000 lbs. thrust
Cost: $660,000

Max. speed: 10,250 mph. / 8,907 knots
Max. range: 1,725 st miles / 1,499 naut miles
Max. altitude: 390 st miles / 339 naut miles