GTR-18 Smokey Sam


The GTR-18A, commonly known as the Smokey Sam, is a small unguided rocket developed by Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) in China Lake, California as a threat simulator for use during military exercises. Widely used in training, the Smokey Sam remains in operational service with the United States military.

GTR-18s ready to launch Philippines 1984.JPEG
GTR-18 "Smokey Sams" on launch rails
TypeSAM simulator rocket
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1980s-present
Used byUnited States military
Production history
DesignerNaval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD)
Designedearly 1980s
Length15 inches (380 mm)
Diameter2 inches (51 mm)

Wingspan6 inches (150 mm)
Propellantsolid fuel
Flight ceiling1,800 feet (550 m)

Design and developmentEdit

The GTR-18 was conceived in the late 1970s by Robert A. McLellan, a Weapons Range Scientist working with Exercise Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base. He first searched for a commercially available system that would perform as he envisioned. It quickly became apparent that no commercial product would perform adequately, so the development of the GTR-18 was undertaken by the Naval Weapons Center (NWC) during the early 1980s, with the intent of developing Mr. McLellan's idea of a simple and inexpensive rocket for visually simulating the launch of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) during training exercises.[1]

Constructed from phenolic paper and styrofoam, the Smokey Sam is designed for minimal cost and, in the event of accidentally striking low-flying aircraft, to cause minimal damage.[1]

Operational historyEdit

A GTR-18 is launched at the Crow Valley Range Complex, Philippines, 1984.

The complete launch system, known as the Smokey Sam Simulator, includes single- and four-rail launching pads, an AN/VPQ-1 radar set, and the GTR-18A rockets themselves, making up the SMU-124/E system as a whole.[1]

When launched, the GTR-18's rocket motor produces a distinctive white plume, providing a realistic simulation of the launch of a surface-to-air missile.[2] While the ordinary GTR-18A has a simple, model rocket type motor, an improved 'Dual Thrust Smokey Sam' tested in the early 2000s featured a modified rocket motor, providing a 1.5 second boost period, followed by a lower-thrust sustainer burn with burnout occurring at 7.1 seconds after launch.[3]

Receiving the altered designation DGTR-18A in the early 1990s, the Smokey Sam remains in production and operational service, and is extensively used by the U.S. military.[1]



  1. ^ a b c d Parsch 2002
  2. ^ Kitfield 1995, p.166.
  3. ^ Taylor 2006


  • Kitfield, James (1995). Prodigal Soldiers: How the Generation of Officers Born of Vietnam Revolutionzed the American Style of War. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-76925-1.
  • Parsch, Andreas (2002). "NWC GTR-18 Smokey Sam". Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
  • Taylor, Bill (9 March 2006). "Dual Thrust Modified Smokey Sam for Low Cost Testing and Simulation" (PDF). NDIA 22nd National Test & Evaluation Conference. Sensor Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory. Retrieved 6 January 2011.