Project Nike, named for the winged goddess of victory in Greek mythology, was born during the closing days of World War II. The military needed a system to counter the long range jet aircraft developed during wartime. Jets operated at altitudes and speeds beyond the reach of traditional ground-based defenses.
The Nike Ajax missile site at Cougar Mountain came online in 1957. Designated as Site 20, this site was the launcher site just east of 166th Way Southeast.
Washington State had 18 active Nike sites at the height of the cold war with the last being decommissioned in 1974.
The military shrouded the Cougar Mountain site in Cold War secrecy, locals however knew the base was of a sensitive nature.
Army units manning the Seattle-based Nike Ajax batteries earned a reputation as tops in the nation as in 1956, 1957, and 1958 earned the Army Air Defense Command Commander's Trophy as a result of high scores achieved at Annual Service Practices at McGregor Range.
The Nike system became obsolete as intercontinental ballistic missiles turned entire continents into targets.
One must use their imagination when visiting this site today. Buildings and the subterranean missile-storage facilities were deemed a
hazard to the public, so the buildings were removed and the metal hatch
covers were welded shut in the effort to transform the site from a
military installation into a county park. Today only fences, concrete
pads, and roads remain of the once heavily guarded base. Also the interpretive information is no longer at the site.
Nike Ajax Missile was 21 feet in length with a four foot six inch wing span. The missile had a range of up to 30 miles traveled at 1,679 miles per hour and could reach an altitude of 70,000 feet. The missle carried three high-explosive fragmentation warheads
mounted in the nose, center, and aft sections.