An Imp called Pye Wacket

Pye Wacket was the code name for a flying saucer-shaped air-to-air missile being developed by the US Air Force 1957-1961. A study of newly declassified sources reveals a more complex history – and the ultimate intention to develop Pye Wacket into a manned antisatellite spacecraft design – before it probably ‘went black’.

It was 1957 and Eglin Air Force base, the US Air Force’s center for development of airborne weaponry, was at work developing a Defensive Anti-Missile System for bombers faced with penetrating future Soviet air defenses. The United States felt surrounded by threats and saucers were literally “in the air”. The area around Eglin experienced a rash of UFO sightings.

In October the launch by the Soviet Union of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite of the earth, shook the American defense establishment to its core. Classified assessments of the time indicated that the B-52 bomber just shipping would only be able to penetrate the Soviet air defenses for a few years, and even the follow-on B-70 Mach 3 bomber might need some kind of active defense. The requirement was for an ‘omnidirectional’ device that after release from a bomber could fly in any direction to take out air-to-air or surface-to-air missiles and manned interceptors. It was in this milieu that the Eglin researchers conceived of a radical flying vehicle based on the classic flying saucer: a lens-shaped or ‘lenticular’ configuration.

Encyclopedia Astronautica: Pye Wacket – The Full Story