Nike Missile Site W-25 (Control Area)

From Annapolis Past Port

Nike Missile Control Area W-25, now the Davidsonville Recreation Center owned by Anne Arundel County, was an Integrated Fire Control (IFC) area for the US Army's Nike surface-to-air missiles from the 1950s until 1974. [1]


During the Cold War, Nike Missile sites were created throughout the U.S. as an air defense system to protect the country against potential nuclear attacks. This extensive defense system, consisting of roughly 265 missile sites, was maintained by the Air Force, Army, and Navy. The Washington-Baltimore Defense Area consisted of 19 sites located in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Northern Virginia.

W-25, which would have defended the Washington-Baltimore Area from nuclear attack [1] , was originally to be constructed on Kent Island, MD, but due to high real estate costs, the US Army moved it to an area off Queen Anne Bridge Road in Davidsonville, MD, in 1954 [1]. In 1958, land for a 16-unit Armed Forces Housing Project for the families of those stationed at W-25 was purchased on the north side of Queen Anne Bridge Road [1]. In 1963, W-25 was given the honor of being named "the National Nike Site" [1]. In May 1964, the Army Air Defense Command (ARADCOM) bestowed W-25's adjacent launch site with its Distinguished Firing Battery Award, which the battery received for outstanding performance during ARADCOM's firing competitions [1]. In December 1964, W-25's fallout protection construction, which included sturdy concrete buildings and air filtration systems, was completed [1].


Had there been a nuclear attack, W-25's IFC Area would have tracked the target vehicle and the Nikes fired at it using its three radars [1]. The Acquisition Radar would detect the approach of an incoming bomber plane, then the Tracking Radar would feed the target vehicle's location and details about its movements into the computer, and then the Missile Tracking Radar would follow the Nike [1]. The computer would then guide the missile towards the target and calculate the nearest intercept point [1]

From Ajax to Hercules Missile

In December of 1953, Fort Meade became the first site to deploy the surface-to-air missile known as the Nike Ajax. Soon after the integration of Ajax missiles, the design was deemed inadequate and ineffective in the face of technological advancements. A new missile, the Nike Hercules, was developed in 1958 to replace the Ajax. W-25 was the first Baltimore-Washington site to receive the Nike Hercules Missile.

Reported in The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday, June 4, 1958:

"Range Estimated at 75 Miles: Hercules has a range estimated at 75 miles. Ajax’s range has been reported to be about 25 miles. The unit operating the new Nikes at Davidsonville will be B Battery of the 36th Missile Battalion of the Army Air Defense Command, according to a 2d Army spokesman at Fort Meade. Batteries which will operate the Hercules have completed extensive training (up to 44 weeks) at the Army Air Defense School, Fort Bliss, Texas, the spokesman said. He said he could not say whether the Hercules missiles will actually be equipped with atomic warheads when installed at Davidsonville.

Nuclear Aid to Defense: The capability of the Hercules in this respect will, however, be an important factor in the air defense of large American cities. The nuclear explosive will enable the Hercules to destroy enemy planes over a wider area than was possible with the Ajax. Maj. Gen. Robert J. Wood, commander of the Fort Bliss Guided Missile Center, said in a Baltimore Speech in April that the Hercules can annihilate “any aerodynamically supported weapon carrier now in use” or “anything of that nature which may be developed in the foreseeable future.” The Army does not claim that the Hercules can stop intercontinental ballistic missiles. That job will await development of the Zeus, third generation of the Nike family."

Defense Area Naming System

Each Nike site had a prefix to identify the city it would defend. This was followed by a two-digit suffix with numbers ranging between 01 and 99, representing the site's direction from the city it defended. For example: BA-43 means the Nike site was tasked with defending the Baltimore Area, and it was located to the south and slightly to the east of Baltimore (compass heading 155°, 50 in the Nike numbering system meaning due south or 180°). BA-43 is located in Jacobsville, MD.

The following is a list of the Nike Defense Areas alphabetized by prefix. Note that the Alaskan Nike Missile Sites are not included because they did not use the prefix-suffix system, rather, they had names. The New Mexico Nike Sites, since they were constructed around Walker Air Force Base, NM, are given the prefixes "W" and "WA", alternatively. They are listed as WA, as the Washington, DC, Defense Area also used the prefix "W".

Nike Missile Defense Areas
Defense Area Name Abbreviation (Prefix) Defense Area
B Boston, MA
BA Baltimore, MD (Washington–Baltimore)
BD Barksdale, LA
BG Bergstrom, TX
BR Bridgeport, CT
BU Niagara/ Buffalo, NY
C Chicago, IL/ Gary, IN
CD Cincinnati, OH/ Dayton, OH
CL Cleveland, OH
D Detroit, MI
DF Dallas, TX/ Fort Worth, TX
DY Dyess AFB, TX
E Ellsworth, SD
F Fairchild, WA
H Hanford, WA
HA Hartford, CT
HM Homestead/Miami, FL
KC Kansas City, MO
L Loring AFB, ME
LA Los Angeles, CA
LI Lincoln, NE
M Milwaukee, WI
MS Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
N Norfolk, VA
NF Niagara/Buffalo, NY
NY New York, NY
OA Oahu, HI
OF Offutt AFB, NE
PH Philadelphia, PA
PI Pittsburgh, PA
PR Providence, RI
R Robins, GA
S Seattle, WA
SC Schilling AFB, KS
SF San Francisco, CA
SL St. Louis, MO
T Travis AFB, CA
TU Turner, GA
W Washington, DC (Washington-Baltimore)
WA [2] Walker, NM

Davidsonville Recreation Center and Anne Arundel County Police Training Academy

The Davidsonville Dance Club, one of the repurposed W-25 IFC buildings, in July 2022.
The Davidsonville Dance Club, one of the repurposed W-25 IFC buildings, in July 2022.
W-25's tracking station, now the Anne Arundel Radio Club, in July 2022.
W-25's tracking station, now the Anne Arundel Radio Club, in July 2022.

The properties on which the W-25 IFC Area and its adjacent launcher, W-25L, stood were purchased by Anne Arundel County in 1976 [1] [3] [4] [5] and turned into the Davidsonville Recreation Center [3], and the Anne Arundel County Police Training Academy [4], respectively. The Davidsonville Recreation Center is home to Boy Scout Troop 454, the Davidsonville Dance Club, and the Anne Arundel Radio Club [5]. Members of the Anne Arundel Radio Club, upon their purchase of what is now their clubhouse in the fall of 1976, requested that the concrete pillar and platform atop which W-25's Tracking Radar stood remain intact. [5].


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 "Nike Missile Base W-25, Maryland", TheMilitaryStandard, Accessed 20 July 2022.
  2. " Nike Missile WA-10 IFC Site Walker AFB Defense Area New Mexico", The Military Standard, Accessed 28 July 2022.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "FACTS ABOUT: DAVIDSONVILLE NIKE CONTROL", Maryland Department of the Environment, Accessed 20 July 2022.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Anne Arundel County Police Training Academy", GBA Architects, Accessed 20 July 2022.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "AARC HIstory 1971-1977", Anne Arundel Radio Club, Accessed 21 July 2022.