The Matador was a surface-to-surface tactical missile designed to carry either a conventional or a nuclear warhead. Originally designated as the B-61, the USAF’s first “pilotless bomber,” it was similar in concept to the German V-1 “buzz bomb” of WWII. The Matador was launched by a booster rocket from a mobile 40-foot trailer and was controlled electronically from the ground during flight. Immediately after launch, the booster rocket fell away and the missile continued on course to its target, powered by its jet engine.
Development of the Matador began in August 1945 and the XB-61 was first launched on 19 January 1949. Operational TM-61s which later followed were the first tactical guided missiles in the USAF inventory. The first Pilotless Bomber Squadron (Light) was organized in October 1951 for test and training purposes, and in March 1954 the first Matador unit was deployed overseas to bolster NATO forces in West Germany. TM-61 units were also sent to Korea and Taiwan. Martin delivered the one thousandth Matador in mid-1957, but in 1959 a phase-out of the Matador began in favor of a more advanced version, the Martin “Mace.”
Warner Robins Air Logistics Center was responsible for the Matador missile’s program and logistics support while they were in service. The Matador on display was delivered to the USAF in May 1954 and assigned to the 50th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Hahn AB, Germany. Its last operational unit was the 69th Tactical Missile Squadron at Hahn AB before being returned to the U.S. in 1965. It was retired from service in June 1959. The Museum acquired the missile in 1983 for display.
Span: 27 ft. 11 in.
Length: 39 ft. 8 in.
Height: 9 ft. 8 in.
Weight: 13,593 lbs. at launch
Armament: Conventional or nuclear warhead
Engine: Allison J33 of 4,600 lbs. thrust; Aerojet solid-propellant booster rocket of 57,000 lbs. thrust
Serial Number: 52-1891
Maximum speed: 600 mph. in level flight, supersonic during final dive
Range: 690 miles
Service ceiling: 44,000 ft.