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MGR-1 Honest John: Wikis


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An "Honest John" rocket on truck
Honest John missile warhead cutaway, showing M139 Sarin bomblets (photo circa 1960)

The MGR-1 Honest John missile was the first nuclear-capable surface-to-surface rocket in the US arsenal. Designated Artillery Rocket XM31, the first such missile was tested in 1951 and deployed in January 1953. The designator was changed to M31 in September 1953, and the missile was deployed in Europe several months later. Alternatively, the missile was designed to be capable of carrying ordinary high-explosive warheads, even though that was not the primary purpose for which it was envisioned. It featured in the BBC docudrama The War Game in battlefield scenes in Berlin.

The M31 consisted of a truck-mounted, unguided, solid-fueled rocket transported in 3 separate parts. Before launch they were combined in the field, mounted on an M289 launcher and aimed and fired in about 5 minutes. The rocket was originally outfitted with a W7 variable yield nuclear warhead with a yield of up to 20 kilotons of TNT (84 TJ) and later a W31 warhead with three variants were deployed with yields of 2 kt (8.4 TJ), 10 kt (42 TJ), or 30 kt (130 TJ). There was a W31 variant of 20 kt (84 TJ) used in the Nike Hercules antiaircraft system exclusively. It had a range between 5.5 and 24.8 km (3.4 and 15.4 mi).

In the 1960s Sarin nerve gas cluster munitions were also available for Honest John launch.[1]

There were 2 versions:

  • The MGR-1A had a range of 48 kilometres (30 mi), takeoff thrust of 400 kilonewtons (90,000 lbf), takeoff weight of 2,720 kilograms (6,000 lb), diameter of 580 millimetres (23 in) and length of 8.32 metres (27.3 ft).
  • The MGR-1B had a range of 37 km (23 mi), launch thrust of 382 kN (86,000 lbf), launch weight of 2,040 kg (4,500 lb), diameter of 760 mm (30 in) and length of 7.56 m (24.8 ft).

Production of the MGR-1 variants finished in 1965 with a total production run of more than 7,000 rockets. The system was replaced with the MGM-52 Lance missile in 1973, but was deployed with NATO units in Europe until 1985 and US Army National Guard units in the United States as late as 1982.

By the time the last Honest Johns were withdrawn from Europe in 1985, the rocket had served with the military forces of Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark (non-nuclear), France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway (non-nuclear), South Korea, Taiwan (non-nuclear), and Turkey.[2]


Support vehicles

launchers used with Honest John

  • M33 trailer, launcher,
  • M46 truck, heating and tie down unit (G744)
  • M289 truck, rocket launcher, (M139 truck) (G744),
  • M329 trailer, rocket transporter, (G821)
  • M386 Truck, Rocket, 762mm, short launch rail, 5-ton (M139 truck)
  • M405 handling unit, trailer mounted,
  • M465 cart assembly, transport, 762mm rocket,


Restored Honest John on M465 cart at Carolinas Aviation Museum.



United Kingdom

United States


 Republic of Korea
 United Kingdom
 United States

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ General Dynamics, Free World Tactical Missile Systems (Pomona, CA: General Dynamics, June 1973) p.251; Jane's Weapon Systems 1987-1988 (London: Jane's, 1987) p.127.

External links



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