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U.S. Navy Museum Cold War Gallery Lesson Plan
Miniature Missiles!
Developed by Rhonda Crawford, Oak Grove High School, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
2011 Naval Historical Foundation STEM teacher fellowship
  Instructional Goal

The nuclear ballistic missiles have played a vital role in protecting our country against nuclear warfare. Even though we have not had to use them, potential enemies know that we have them and it serves as a deterrent to keep an enemy from attacking the U.S. In this unit of study students will create a 3-D drawing of a missile and build a model to scale of the missile.

Types of Fleet Ballistic Missiles

A missile is a solid-propellant, inertially guided weapon. They have supporting system components such as navigation, launcher, targeting/guidance from the SSBN.

The purpose of this sequential generation of strategic weapons is to serve as a deterrent to prevent nuclear war. These missiles are a major contribution of the Navy and the submarines carry 24 nuclear tipped ballistic missiles. It assures a potential enemy that a nuclear attack on the US will be followed by a devastating nuclear blow.


A1 Polaris:
  • 1st successful underwater missile launched in 1960 from the USS George Washington and was retired in 1965
  • 28' long, 54" diameter
  • Weight: 28,000 lbs.
  • Range of 1,380 miles
A2 Polaris:
  • Launched in 1961 from the USS Ethan Allen and was retired in 1971
  • 31' long, 54" diameter
  • Weight: 32,500 lbs.
  • Range of 1,730 miles
A3 Polaris:
  • Launched in 1963 from the USS Andrew Jackson and was retired in 1981
  • 32' long, 54" diameter
  • Weight: 35,700 lbs.
  • Range of 2,880 miles

C3 Poseidon:
  • This was an improvement of the Polaris to maximize the effectiveness of the Navy's FBM weapon system
  • It was a 2-stage, solid propellant missile, capable of being launched from a submerged FBM submarine
  • Launched in 1970 from USS James Madison and was terminated in 1992
  • 34' long, 74" diameter
  • Weight: 64,600 lbs.
  • Range of 2,880 miles
The Trident program was established to develop an improved long range missile to expand the submarine operating area. This provides the US with a credible deterrent to nuclear war in the 1980s and beyond.

Trident I:
  • 3-stage solid propellant, inertially guided that uses an extendible aerospike to increase its aerodynamics
  • First launched from a submarine in 1979
  • 34' long, 74" diameter
  • Weight: 73,000 lbs.
  • Range of 4,600 miles
Trident II:
  • 3-stage solid propellant, inertially guided, submarine launched that will be the US's strategic seaborne deterrent into the next century
  • First deployed from a submarine in 1990
  • 44' long, 83" diameter
  • Weight: 130,000 lbs.
  • Range: > 4,600 miles
Teacher Help
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Video Resources

play videoFleet Ballistic Missile Display:  This is a video of the "Fleet Ballistic Missile" display in the Covert Submarine Operations exhibit in the Cold War Gallery.

play videoOperation Dominic, 1962:  The launch of a Polaris A1 submarine launched ballistic missile from the nuclear submarine USS ETHAN ALLEN, and the ensuing nuclear detonation of its warhead, are shown in this clip from the 1973 U.S. Navy film "Our Crucial Deterrent". Source: Naval History and Heritage Command, Photographic Section, UM-23.

play videoFirst Poseidon Missile Launch:  The 1972 launch of a Poseidon submarine launched ballistic missile is shown in this clip from the 1973 U.S. Navy film "Our Crucial Deterrent". Source: Naval History and Heritage Command, Photographic Section, UM-23.

play videoTrident Missile Launch:  Dual launch of Trident C4 missiles, the fifth type of ballistic missile, first launched in 1977 and retired in 2005. From the Chief of Naval Operations, Submarine Warfare Division.

play videoTrident Missile Launch from the USS Nevada:  Launch of a Trident D5 missile, the sixth type of ballistic missile, and the only ballistic missile still deployed on U.S. and U.K. ballistic missile submarines. USS Nevada was converted from Trident C4 to D5. From navy.mil

Click icon to download Activity in PDF format
Miniature Missiles


This assignment includes 2 parts. Each person will design your assigned missile in 3-D (using a program such as SolidWorks or Google SketchUp) or on graph paper. Your group will then create a scale model of your missile using modeling clay.
  1. Name of missile:  ________________________________

  2. Dimensions of the missile: (Use the "Types of Missiles" tab)

    ___________Length ___________Width ___________Heigth

  3. To complete the drawing and the model, use a scale of 4 ft to 1 in. Convert the dimensions of the missile for the drawing and model.

    ___________Length ___________Width ___________Heigth

  4. Using the missile images in the "Types of Missiles" tab, create a model using modeling clay of the missile to scale.
  1. Scale drawing (individual assignment)

  2. Model of missile (group assignment)


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