The MGM-134A Small ICBM, which the media loved to call Midgetman (a name the USAF never officially recognized), was a strategic weapons system developed by the USAF to be a survivable, retaliatory, nuclear-armed missile. The system was mobile and could be set up rapidly, allowing it to move to a new firing location after learning of an enemy missile launch. To attack the weapon, the enemy would have to blanket the area around its last known location with multiple warheads, using up a large percentage of their force for limited gains and no guarantee that all, or even any, of the missiles would be destroyed. In such a scenario, the U.S. would retain enough of its nuclear forces for a successful counterstrike, thereby maintaining deterrence.
System definition studies for the SICBM commenced in 1984 under an Air Force Program Office at Norton AFB, CA, with TRW providing System Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) support. Contracts were awarded by the end of 1986 to Martin Marietta, Thiokol, Hercules, Aerojet, Boeing, General Electric, Rockwell, and Logicon, and authorization to proceed with full scale development of the missile was granted.
The first prototype SICBM was launched in 1989, but tumbled off course and was destroyed over the Pacific Ocean about 70 seconds into the flight. The first successful test flight took place on 18 April 1991. The SICBM was a three-stage, solid-fueled missile, and like the LGM-118 Peacekeeper, it used a cold-launch system in which gas pressure ejected the missile from its launch canister. First-stage ignition occurred after the missile was free of its launcher. The Peacekeeper missile’s “little brother” had a range of about 6,800 miles and accuracy comparable to that of the Peacekeeper.
The missile’s launching “platform” was an eight-wheel drive Hard Mobile Launcher (HML) vehicle. The plan called for these vehicles to normally remain on Air Force bases, only being deployed in times of international crisis when nuclear war was considered imminent. The HML was radiation hardened and had a trailer-mounted plow to dig the vehicle into the earth for additional protection from nearby nuclear blasts. At the end of the Cold War, the U.S. scaled back its development of new nuclear weapons. The SICBM program was therefore canceled in January 1992 and this missile was never deployed.