Airlaunched Missiles

Many Missileers worked with missiles that were not stored in silos or coffins - the missiles they were involved with were launched from aircraft.  Airlaunched Missiles include air to ground and air to air missiles, used in air defense, non-nuclear and nuclear ground attack and many other purposes.  Strategic Air Command (SAC) has had a significant force of airllaunched cruise missiles over the years, from the early Rascal for the B-47 to a number of nuclear and nonnuclear cruise missiles 

Air-to-Air, Early Programs in the late 1940s - MX-570, Hughes Aircraft 9 mile range, subsonic, 50,000 foot altitude JB-3, Tiamat.  MX-798, Hughes 5  mile range version of MX-570.  MX-799, Ryan Aeronautical fighter-launched subsonic missile, called Firebird.  MX-800, M. W. Kellogg fighter-launched supersonic missile. MX-801, Bendix Aviation fighter-launched supersonic missile.  MX-802, General Electric bomber-launched supersonic missile, Dragonfly.

Programs Still in Work, 1950 - MX-674, Bell Tarzon.  MX-776, or Bell Rascal I, and Rascal II, 150 mile range.  MX-904, Hughes Falcon for  fighters, to be followed by a bomber-launched version.

By June 1953, only Rascal and the Falcon survived  Sparrow and Sidewinder were being developed by the Navy.




Genie (MB-1, AIR-2) - Supersonic, unguided, free flight, air-to-air rocket carried and launched by interceptor aircraft from the Air Defense Command.  2 kiloton nuclear warhead (W-25) designed for use against formations of enemy bombers.  Operational in 1957. Produced until 1962, in service until 1986.  Initially carried by the F-89J, and later by the F-101B and the F-106A, armed in the air a few minutes before firing.  Speed Mach 8, 9 feet 7 inches long, 17 inches in diameter, weighing 800 pounds, Range 6 miles.  Built by Douglas Aircraft Company, ,000 pound thrust solid propellant rocket motor manufactured by Aerojet-General. On 19 July 1957, a Genie was launched from an F-89J over the Nevada desert, marking the only time in history that an air-to-air rocket with a nuclear warhead was launched and detonated. The test took place at 20,000 feet, and the rocket was fired at a “target” about three miles away. The Genie covered this distance in 4.5 seconds and was detonated by ground command.

Sidewinder (GAR-8, AIM-9A through AIM-9M) -  Close range, infrared guided missile designed to be fired from fighters against enemy aircraft, for both attack and defense.  Developed in the 1950s, still in service today in many versions.  Infrared system uses target’s heat for locating  and tracking.  Solid propellant motor.  Speed above Mach 2, launched at from thousands of feet to more than 10 miles from the enemy aircraft.  First guided missile to down an enemy aircraft.  Originally manufactured for the Navy, a number of contractors have manufactured various versions.  Length 9 feet, 5 inches, over-all span, 25 inches; body diameter, 5 inches, weight up to 160 pounds.



Falcon (GAR-1, 2, 3, 4  and 11, AIM-4A through G, AIM-26B, AIM-47A) - Built primarily by Hughes Aircraft but involved other contractors.  Development began in 1947 under the name project Dragonfly and was first designated XF-98, a “pilotless interceptor.  First tested in 1954 and became operational in  1955.  Most  versions radar guided, C, D and G infrared guided.  AIM-4F and G introduced simultaneously in 1960 to provide reduced susceptibility to enemy countermeasures and higher performance. G primary armament for F-106 but a  number of aircraft carried the Falcon, including the F-89J, F-101, F-102, and F-4.  G retired with the F-106 in 1988.  AIM-26 a guided, nuclear-armed version.  AIM-47A never operational - planned for use on the F-12A.  Powered by a Thiokol single or two stage solid propellant motor.  7 feet 2 inches long and 6 a half inches diameter, weighed 150 pounds.  About 48,000 manufactured.

Sparrow (AIM 7- D through R) - Radar guided, all-weather, all-aspect capable missile.  Manufactured by Raytheon and General Dynamics.  More than 39,400 were produced.  Developed to be carried by the F-4, F-111, F-104, F-14, F-15, F-16 and F-18.  Solid propellant motor manufactured by Aerojet and Rocketdyne.  Speed above Mach 305, range more than 25 miles.  11 feet, 10 inches long, 8 inches diameter, span of 3 feet, 4 inches and weigh 504 pounds.

AMRAAM  (AIM-120A and B) - Developed jointly by USAF and Navy for F-15, F-16, F-18, F-14, F-22 and NATO and allied fighters.  Replaced AIM-7 Sparrow.  Medium range, look-down, shoot-down  missile with fire-and-forget and multiple launch capabilities.  Inertial mid-course guidance and active radar terminal homing.  Propulsion system was developed in 1979 by Alliant Techsystems, Hughes Aircraft and Raytheon. Boost/sustainer propellant grain design solid motor with reduced smoke feature.  Testing conducted in 1985 and 1986. Production began in 1987, first missile delivered in 1988.  Planned production over 12,000 missiles.




Rascal (GAM-63) - Initially designated the ASM-A-2, then the B-63 in 1951 and finally the GAM-63 in 1955. RASCAL was the acronym for RAdar SCAnning Link, the missile's guidance system. In May 1947, the USAAF awarded the Bell Aircraft Company a contract for the construction of a supersonic air-to-surface, nuclear armed missile compatible with theB-29, B-50 and B-36.The missile was to have a range of 100 miles.  Powered by a XLR67-BA-1 rocket engine developed by Bell. The XLR-67 provided 10,440 pounds-forceof thrust using three vertical in-line thrust chambers.  The GAM-63 used a command guidance control system remotely controlled in the launching bomber. An Bell inertial guidance system was used in the later GAM-63A, which. Improved the accuracy of the missile.  SAC eliminated the -29, B-50 and B-36 from the program over the next few years of testing, and modified tow B-47s to carry the missile.  Out of 65 tests, only one was a complete success, and SAC determined that the missile was already obsolete.  The program was terminated in September 1958.

Skybolt (GAM-87A) - Designed to be a complement and then a replacement for the Hound Dog, the Skybolt was a nuclear deterrent weapon planned to be carried by the B-52 and the British Vulcan bomber. The two stage, solid motor, inertially guided air launched ballistic missile (ALBM) was built by Douglas Aircraft, and was first launched on April 19, 1962. The first launch was a partial success, because the second stage failed to ignite.  The Skybolt had a range of 1,150 miles, was 33 feet long, 3 feet in diameter and weighted 11,000 pounds.  A B-52 could carry up to four of the missiles, in addition to an internal bomb load. Secretary of Defense McNamara canceled the Skybolt in the early 1960s.

Hound Dog (GAM-77, AGM-28)-77 - Carried as a standoff weapon by B-52 bomber force for many years. Entered the SAC inventory in1959 and left it in 1978. At its peak inventory in 1963, SAC had 597 of these nuclear armed missiles, and 28 units equipped with them. The Hound Dog, and its sister missile, the Quail, were maintained by the Missileers in the Airborne Missile Maintenance Squadrons (AMMS) at each of the B-52 bases. Those same folks later maintained the other missiles covered below.  Developed and manufactured by North American Aviation.  Originally called the B-77, similar to the early bomber designations for Atlas (B-65) and Titan (B-68). It was then re-designated the GAM-77, one of the “ground attack missiles” in the AF inventory. When Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara introduced his new “standardized” designation system common to all services, the Hound Dog became the AGM-28. (A for air launched, G for ground target, M for missile).  Two could be carried by B-52G and B-52H models modified with a pylon under each wing, between the fuselage and the inboard engines. The navigation systems of the B-52 and the missile were integrated so the B-52 navigator could cross-check data with the automated inertial guidance system in the Hound Dog.  The jet engine powered, supersonic, winged missile was designed as a stand-off 0weapon (one that could be launched well away from the target by the bomber) to destroy heavily defended ground targets. The program began on 15 March 1956, and North American won the contract on 16 October 1958. The first launch of the missile from a B-52 took place in April 1959. By the end of 1959, the Air Force had approved 29 B-52 squadrons to be equipped with Hound Dogs. The first missile was delivered to SAC on 21 December 1959, during a ceremony at North American plant in Downey, CA. The Hound Dog was never used in combat, but was part of the SAC bomber force for 28 years. In 1960, SAC developed a method for using the missiles’ jet engines to provide extra power for the B-52 carrier in flight or during takeoff. The missiles could then be refueled in flight from the bomber’s fuel tanks. The missile was powered by a Pratt and Whitney J-52-6 engine with 7,500 pounds of thrust, and could cruise at Mach 2.1. It was 42 feet, 3 inches long with a wing span of 12 feet 2 inches, and weighed 9,600 pounds. The warhead was a W28 weapon with a yield of one megaton. The missile could attack a target 500 nautical miles away from high altitude and 200 nm from low altitude. The first SAC Combat Evaluation Launch was on 9 January 1962, from a B-52G from the 4126th Strategic Wing at Beale. The missile flew 607 nm to its target. On 17 January 1962, the first missile was placed on alert on a B-52G at the 4038th SW at Dow AFB, ME. On 15 June 1978, the last of the Hound Dogs were demilitarized and left the inventory. The last  operational Hound Dog unit was the 42 BW at Loring AFB, ME.

Quail (GAM-72, ADM-20) - Decoy missile carried by and launched from a B-52 bomber to confuse or dilute a hostile radar-controlled air defense system. Each aircraft could carry four missiles. The Quail had a range of more than 200 miles at nearly sonic speed, after launch from its carrier. It was manufactured by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. It was powered by a General Electric J-58-GE-7 turbojet engine. The engine had an eight stage, axial flow compressor driven by a two stage turbine. Ethylene oxide was used for engine starting at extreme altitudes and fuel was JP-4 with Phillips 55MB additive.  The additive prevented the formation of ice in the fuel at extremely low temperatures.  The missile airframe consisted of the forward body, aft body and wings. The forward body housed one of the offensive subsystems, the flight control system and the instrumentation system. It was a glass fiber laminate-honeycomb composite construction. The aft body, conventional aluminum construction, housed the engine, fuel and oil systems; air turbine alternator and another offensive subsystem. The wings were conventional aircraft-type construction, a short-span modified delta planform design. Missiles were carried in the aircraft with the wings folded. In this position, each was 29 inches wide and 26 inches high. In the wing extended position, the missile was 5 feet 5 inches wide, 12 feet 11 inches long and 3 feet 4 inches high. It weighed slightly under 2000 pounds. Four missiles were housed in two carriage racks in the bomb bay. The carriages were lowered, the missile wings extended, and the engine started automatically. An interlock circuit prevented the extension of the launch gear while the bomb bay doors were closed. After launch, the lower carriages were jettisoned. Normally the upper carriages were retracted. If the missiles were not launched, they were retracted into the aircraft after the wings were refolded. If a launch gear failure prevented release or retraction of the missiles, thereby endangering the aircraft, the entire launch gear could be jettisoned. A fully extended missile would not clear the runway, if the bomber had to land with the launch gear down. Missiles were loaded into the aircraft by either the quick-load missile package method or the single-missile sequence loading method. In the quick-load method, a package consisting of four missiles and the supporting launch gear components was built up in the maintenance area, and then loaded into the carrier aircraft as a unit. The sequential method consisted offloading a single missile onto a launch gear carriage which was already installed in the aircraft.

ALCM (AGM-86B and C) - Originally designed for use with a nuclear warhead, the ALCM, built by Boeing, currently arm B-52H aircraft, with 12 missiles carried externally and 8 in an internal rotary launcher. The ALCM was procured as a precision attack weapon that is accurate and highly survivable, and could be fired over 1,500 miles from its target. A total of 1,715 missiles were produced, and the C model was designed for use with a conventional warhead and uses GPS to enhance the inertial/TERCOM guidance. The conventional model was used in the Gulf War. The 3,200 pound ALCM is powered by a Williams or Teledyn turbofan engine, is 20 feet, 9 inches long, 2 feet in diameter and has a wingspan of 12 feet.

ACM (AGM-129A) - The Advanced Cruise Missile (ACM) is deployed on the B-52H and is a low observable cruise missile with improved capabilities when compared to the ALCM. Developed by General Dynamics, with McDonnell Douglas selected as a second source, the first ACM was delivered in August 1993. A total of 461 missiles were ordered. Powered by a Williams turbofan and using inertial guidance with a TERCOM update, the ACM was designed for a nuclear warhead. Range is 1,865 miles, and the missile is 20 feet, 10 inches long, 2 feet 3 3/4 inches wide and has wingspan of 10 feet, 2 inches.

AGM-130A and C - A TV or IR guided air-to-surface missile carried by the F-15, a GBU-15 glide bomb with a rocket motor for use as a standoff weapon on heavily defended targets. The AGM-130A uses a Mark 84 2000 pound bomb and the AGM-130C a BLU-109/B penetrating warhead. Used extensively in Iraq and the Balkans.

Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) - An advanced precision, long-range weapon using an IR seeker for terminal guidance with GPS/INS for midcourse and backup terminal guidance. First flown in April 1999, the missile is manufactured by Lockheed Martin. It carries a 1000 pound warhead and is powered by a Teledyne Continental Motors powerplant. Planned for use on the B-52H, F-16,  B-1B, B-2, F/A-18E/F, F-15E, F-117 and P-3C.




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