Project Nike was a project of the US Army, proposed in May, 1945, to develop a line of sight anti-aircraft missile system in order to combat jet aircraft during the war. Bell Labs first proposed Project Nike to deal with bombers which fly fast enough and high enough that it would be impossible to aim at a target. Project Nike used three separate radars – one to search for a target, one to track the target, and one to command the missile.
Bases for project Nike were scattered all over the United States, with several in Union County and surrounding areas. The bases in this area form an arc around New York City. The missiles were intended to intercept and destroy incoming Soviet air squadrons aimed at New York City. Other missile bases in Southern New Jersey were intended to intercept squadrons aimed at Philadelphia.
One of the Nike missile sites is in Watchung Reservation. County officials and local residents protested strongly, but the base was eventually completed.
These bases, while operational, were heavily guarded and completely off limits to the public.
In 1965, the Soviets developed intercontinental ballistic missiles which decreased the value of the Nike system and therefore reduced the budget to maintain the Nike bases.