United States of America
Polaris A1, A2 and A3 Missiles
UGM-27A, UGM-27B, UGM-27C
Updated 04 May 2007

The first Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) developed and deployed by the United States was the Polaris A1 missile, named for the North Star.  This was a  two-stage ballistic missile with a range of 1,200 nautical miles.  Like all subsequent USN Strategic Missiles, the A1 was powered by solid fuel rocket motors and guided by a self-contained inertial guidance system independent of external commands or control.

The follow-on Polaris Missiles A2 and A3 had increased range and payload.  U.S. deployment of the Polaris missile series ended with the retirement of the A3 in 1979.

The Polaris was launched by the pressure of expanding gas within the launch tube.   After gaining a sufficient height above the water's surface, the first stage rocket engine was ignited.

The United Kingdom and the United States signed the Polaris Sales Agreement in 1963.  For nearly three decades, the UK used the A3 for its submarine deployed strategic missiles.


USS George Washington SSBN-598 fires the first Polaris Missile ever launched from an underwater submarine on 20 July 1960
US Navy Photograph

Color Picture of the Polaris A3

Photograph copyrighted by Lockheed-Martin Missile and Space

Designation Polaris UGM-27A, UGM-27B, UGM-27C
Ship Class Used On George Washington SSBN-598 and Ethan Allen SSBN-608 Class Submarines
Date In Service 1960
Weight 35,000 lbs. (15,876  kg)
Dimensions 54 X 387.5 in (137 X 984 cm)
Payload A3
   British Version:  Six 150 kt warheads
   USA Version:  Three 200 kt warheads
Range A1:  1,200 nm
A2:  N/A
A3:  2,500 nm
Propulsion Two-stage solid fuel rocket (36,000 kg initial thrust)
Data from
Lockheed-Martin Missile and Space
"The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems 1991/92" by Norman Friedman
China Lake Museum