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ALBM Projects (was: Er, Skybolt, the missile...)

Skybolt

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It is a couple of months that I wanted to this post, for obvious reasons... :D
Ok, folks, open your treasure buckets and show the gems you hide on this fascinating, and ill covered topic: air-llaunched ballistic missilex, or ALBMs. And I mean REAL air-launch, not just throwing a Minuteman out of a C-5... And since I'm in a good mood, let's extend the topic to ultrasonic cruise or cruise-ballistic missiles... Our British members will recognize in this description things like "Pandora".... ;)
 

Sentinel Chicken

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Andreas Parsch has a nice summary of three US designs - the Martin "Bold Orion", the Lockheed "High Virgo", and the McDonnell "Alpha Draco". Looks like only the Bold Orion and High Virgo got flight tested from aircraft.

Link: http://www.designation-systems.net/dusrm/app4/ws-199.html
 

Skybolt

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Oh yes, but those are "easy" infos :D ;)
I'd hope something on things like: WS-138 design competiton proposals other than the winning Douglas one; ALBM intended for B-58 (some info in Miller's B-58), B-70 (idem in Jenkins's Valkyrie) and WS-125A (and CAMAL). On the last there is a hint in the APR article on the nuclear bomber. And besides, similar projects from other countries, Britain, URSS (AFAIK Soviets went for long range cruise, but you never know).

And BTW, I remain conviced that Bold Orion was really an experimental ASAT in ALBM disguise....
 

sferrin

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Skybolt said:
Oh yes, but those are "easy" infos :D ;)
I'd hope something on things like: WS-138 design competiton proposals other than the winning Douglas one; ALBM intended for B-58 (some info in Miller's B-58), B-70 (idem in Jenkins's Valkyrie) and WS-125A (and CAMAL). On the last there is a hint in the APR article on the nuclear bomber. And besides, similar projects from other countries, Britain, URSS (AFAIK Soviets went for long range cruise, but you never know).

And BTW, I remain conviced that Bold Orion was really an experimental ASAT in ALBM disguise....
Until Andrea's site I don't recall hearing otherwise. I've heard of Bold Orion numerous times going all the way back to the early 80's and it had always been described as a B-47 launched ASAT vehicle.
 

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There were a couple of Tu-144 based ALBM projects, which are described (no pictures) in V. Rigmant's recent Tu-160 articles in Aviatsiya i Kosmonautika.
 

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Tu-144 Projects

Aviation- missile complex - the medium range ballistic solid-propellant missiles. Carrier aircraft had to bear in the fuselage compartment three MBR of long range. The launch of rockets had to be carried out from the carrier aircraft in the limits of the territory OF THE USSR, output to the line of starting at the velocity of 2300-2500 km/h. Specific quantity of the aircraft. the line of firing was determined in 2500 km from the base, the flying range of rockets achieved 7000-9000 km.

These preliminary projects formed the basis for the subsequent projects ARK on the base Tu-144D with the engines RD -36-51. In these projects was considered the use of that modernised Tu-144D with the increased fuel load as carrier for intermediate range rocket with the flying range 3000-5000km, distinguished by their considerably smaller sizes and masses, than in the preceding case.
In these projects basic flight into the zone of starting carrier aircraft had to perform in the subsonic mode. In this case with one rocket the range of system was determined in 9000-11000 km, with the flying range of aircraft itself near 5000 km; with two rockets - 8500-10000km, with the flying range of aircraft of approximately 4500 km, and with three rockets - 8000-9500 km with the flying range of aircraft of approximately 3500 km.
Translated from Vladimir Rigmant, Tu-160 article, AviatsiyaI Kosmonautika 02/2006
 

Archibald

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Just a tough...
I know that the Skybolt program was cancelled in 1962...my question is, could this missile have followed the path of air-launched cruise missiles? I mean, get ride off the nuclear warhead for a conventional one, and add high precision guidance system such as GPS...
 

Skybolt

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IMHO, cancellation of Skybolt was the silliest decision done by the dynamic duo (McNamara-Kennedy), not only in retrospect... A niormal strategic/military mind could have it back in 1962.
Skybolt was done in the most hurried-up manner, using existing components and it was working. If the same metrics of failed test-flight used for Skybolt had been used on Corona, the US would renounced spy satellites in 1960... A Skybolt 2, designed from scratch, would have been a most formidable weapon, and a Skybolt 3 could have subistitute most ICBM on the US part. Mayor problem of Skybolt (and ALBMs in general) was the incertitude of the launcher position. With GPS ON THE LAUNCHER (not necessary to wait for small GPS receiver on-board the missile itself) they could reach a real outstanding precision without terminal guidance. And add a radar-image mapping (a là Pershing II) and you'll have a quick strike, intercontinental, surgical weapon, by 1982.... I think cancellation on the Skybolt represented a real turning point (for the worse) in the western strategic posture.
 

Archibald

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What do you think of the use of a modern Skybolt as bunker buster? No concrete nor buried bunker can resist a mach 6 impact no? particularly if our Skybolt is crossed with a GBU-28 warhead... now the Kinetic energy / forged warhead / explosive device combo would be something!
 

Skybolt

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Now they call it "CAV", Common Aero Vehicle. Could have been there in 1965...
With a longer range ALBM (like the projected Soviet ones), the launcher could have stayed within the limits of the Omega/Loran network (no need of the Navstar/GPS satellites) and with terminal guidance you could allow a less than perfect pinponting of the launcher coordinates. Again, the US posture for land based nuclear weapons was completely wrong after the McNamara/Kennedy decisions. There was a grave disconnect between asserted counter-force and flexible (later limited) nuclear war and no wepons to pursue it: they decided on favour of the Minuteman but that was a missile conceived for massive retaliation strategy (poor precision), and only with the utmost effort (done under Nixon and successors), the low -payload Minuteman could reach an acceptable CEP for fleixlble strike and counterforce. The ALBM could have been an early cunterforce weapon. Problem was that influence of LeMay was dwindling politically and McNamara's main politocal goal was to put reins on the bomber-lobby.
 

sferrin

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Archibald said:
What do you think of the use of a modern Skybolt as bunker buster? No concrete nor buried bunker can resist a mach 6 impact no? particularly if our Skybolt is crossed with a GBU-28 warhead... now the Kinetic energy / forged warhead / explosive device combo would be something!
A Skybolt with a GBU-28 on the front end wouldn't get very far :eek: Now on the front of a Pegasus XL say, it might get a useful distance but I don't know if it would even fly very well with all that weight WAY up front.
 

Skybolt

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Really, if you build up a sufficient speed, having a bomb is not so necessary. A rod of ametal (tungsten, depleted uranium) could well do the job. And you could build the missile around it. There is a concept called "rod from god"....
Besides, using long range ballistic missile with conventional warhead has always been controversial during the Cold War , since it would have probably sparked a nuclear confrontation if used in a major (East-West) war. I remember that during the '80s the best weapon concept for the proposed FOFA (Follow-on Forces Attack) strategy was a land based version of the Trident with a multiple self-forging fragment warhead. Problem was that the Soviet would have taken it as a nuclear attack.
Best role for ALBM would have as a subistitute for the majority of ICBM. Back in late '50s, if someone asked what the weapons would have been by late 80s I'd have said: "nuclear propulsion aircraft with very long range ALBMs".
 

sferrin

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Skybolt said:
Back in late '50s, if someone asked what the weapons would have been by late 80s I'd have said: "nuclear propulsion aircraft with very long range ALBMs".
And probably would have cried when they said "nope, B-52s". :eek: ;)
 

Skybolt

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:'( :'( :'( :'(
Well, it could have come out worse... B-747s with ALCMs ;D
 

Skybolt

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The 50s were the royal years for air-launched ballistic missiles. The Navy studied the Seamster as a launcher for a two-stages missile using the boost-glide tecnique to reach a range of 1000 miles. Year 1958, before the WS-109 program and WS-138 competition. The missile would stay in the bomb bay.
 

PMN1

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According the British Secret Projects: Hypersonics, Ramjets and Missiles, BAC at Stevenage proposed (some time in 1961 it looks like) a British alternative to Skybolt, the X.12B.

This was an air-launched ballistic missile, a three-stage solid rocket version of the X.12.

Launch aircraft was to be the VC.10 (this could carry four of the earlier X.12).

Does anyone have any information on this?
 

turboshaft

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Inspired by Triton's YC-15/MX post in the AMST thread, and since it seemed more appropriate to add here rather than in the SWL/ICBM carrier/Air Launched Sats/Air Dropped Sats etc. threads (it's a target rich environment)... ;D

It's ironic that, in contrast to the fame surrounding the 1974 C-5/Minuteman drop, the C-17 is today launching Minutemans (well, okay, Minuteman stages) on a regular basis with little publicity, in the shape of the L3/Coleman LRALT target for the Thaad program. The most recent drop was last week. Details at http://www.crc.com/LRALT.htm and http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA413342&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf. The Coleman website also provides details of the smaller SRALT target, dropped from the C-130.

The AIAA paper at http://airlaunchllc.com/AIAA-2005-0621.pdf is also worth a read in the context of the various ALBM launch options.
 

XP67_Moonbat

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Again, I point you to Scott's always outstanding work. Project "Town Hall":
http://www.up-ship.com/apr/extras/townhall.htm
 

sferrin

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Mentioned earlier in the thread was the High Virgo air-launched ASAT. Seen at 33 seconds:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EhgzBC5hKE&feature=related


Makes you wonder at the cool stuff yet to be found. And the cool stuff that will go to the junk heap undiscovered. :'(
 

Jemiba

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An early artist's impression of Skybolt:
(from Aviation Week October 1960)
 

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XP67_Moonbat

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Skybolt said:
The 50s were the royal years for air-launched ballistic missiles. The Navy studied the Seamster as a launcher for a two-stages missile using the boost-glide tecnique to reach a range of 1000 miles. Year 1958, before the WS-109 program and WS-138 competition. The missile would stay in the bomb bay.
Is there anything more on this Seamaster project?
 

Grey Havoc

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Via the Gloucestershire Transport History website, a couple of photos of an old wind tunnel model of an early Skybolt design:

Paul's 24 inch long 5 pound wind tunnel model of the GAM-87 Skybolt missile - seen above and at the top of this article - came from a retired Douglas employee in Wichita, KS, but unfortunately no data or history came with it.
After studies in 1958 had shown that it was feasible to air-launch ballistic missiles from high-flying strategic bombers, the USAF issued a requirement in 1959 for a long-range ALBM (Air-Launched Ballistic Missile) to be carried four at a time on pylons under the wings of a new H variant of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. In May 1959, Douglas was awarded a development contract for the WS (Weapons System) 138A missile, designated GAM-87 Skybolt.

Skybolt was powered by a two-stage solid-fuel rocket motor and guided by a stellar-inertial navigation system. While on the pylon, the Skybolt was fitted with a tail cone to reduce aerodynamic drag but this was ejected after the missile had been released from the B-52H and the first motor stage ignited. After first stage burnout, the Skybolt coasted for a while before the second stage ignited. First stage control was by movable tail fins, while the second stage was equipped with a gimballed nozzle. Skybolt was designed to deliver a single thermonuclear warhead over a range of 1 150 miles at a maximum speed of Mach 9.

Douglas subsequently awarded development subcontracts to Nortronics (guidance system), Aerojet General (propulsion), and General Electric (reentry vehicle). Full-scale development was approved in February 1960, and in January 1961, the first drop tests of unpowered Skybolts occurred. Powered and guided flight tests of XGAM-87A prototypes began in April 1962, but the first five tests were all failures.

The first fully successful Skybolt flight occurred on 19 December 1962, but on that same day the whole program was cancelled by the United States Congress and the production of the operational GAM-87A stopped. Although Skybolt certainly had its technical difficulties and was well behind schedule, the cancellation was also very much influenced by economic and political factors.
Also there's a photo of a RAF mockup:
In May 1960, Great Britain had negotiated the purchase of 100 Skybolts for use on the RAF's Avro Vulcan bombers, which would have carried one under each wing. Indeed, Avro had proposed a "Phase Six" development of the Vulcan large enough to carry six GAM-87s, and with an additional fleet of 48 of these giant delta winged bombers, the RAF would have had the option of keeping 84 Skybolts in the air at any one time.
Following the cancellation of Skybolt however, the RAF's V-bombers were equipped with British made Blue Steel stand-off missiles although during the 1970s Britain's nuclear deterrent was taken over by American-supplied Polaris missiles carried in purpose built Royal Navy submarines.

However, a mock up of a Douglas Skybolt - notably without the front canards and with different rear fins to the wind tunnel model - survived to be preserved at RAF Cosford.
 

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b2_tailless

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Grey Havoc, your image <Air_ALM_Douglas%20Skybolt.jpg> is the configuration of the wind tunnel model I have, acquired from my father while he was working on the project. I also have the maintenance manual for the system in PDF format for anyone interested. Here are a few photos of the model I have:
 

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overscan

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I am sure many people would be interested in the manual. If you send me a copy I can upload to the server for all to see?
 

Orionblamblam

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b2_tailless said:
I also have the maintenance manual for the system in PDF format for anyone interested. H
I for one am interested. And anything else that might help me create accurate diagrams of the airframe.
 

Grey Havoc

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b2_tailless said:
Grey Havoc, your image <Air_ALM_Douglas%20Skybolt.jpg> is the configuration of the wind tunnel model I have, acquired from my father while he was working on the project. I also have the maintenance manual for the system in PDF format for anyone interested. Here are a few photos of the model I have:
Thanks again for the photos and PDF, b2_tailless!
 

moonbeamsts

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Paul
Thank You very much as a model rocket builder this is one I have wanted to build for years. B) B)
 

Kadija_Man

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Is there any evidence that the Soviets ever looked at the possibility of using ALBMs?
 

flateric

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Kadija_Man said:
Is there any evidence that the Soviets ever looked at the possibility of using ALBMs?
http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,735.msg5590.html#msg5590
 

Boxman

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Two videos found at YouTube regarding the Convair B-58 Hustler/"High Virgo" Air-Launched Ballistic Missile (ALBM) efforts.

Just posted by the San Diego Air & Space Museum (SDASM) Archives at their YouTube page: F 2107 Convair Air Launched Ballistic Missle ALBM Progress Report Cape Canaveral 1958 B-58 Hustler.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GM2bNiQS7F0
Posted by YouTube poster rocket.aero: B-58 Air Launched Ballistic Missile Summary Report 1959. This film (at the 8 min 25 sec mark) details the efforts and attempt to use the High Virgo ALBM as the platform to perform the "first satellite reconnaissance in history" of Explorer 5, and then, when that attempt was aborted, "Discoverer 5" (Corona 5/KH-1 -2).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVtosAjWUvY
 

sferrin

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Those are both awesome and depressing at the same time. We couldn't duplicate that today if we wanted to. Certainly not in that short amount of time.
 

Grey Havoc

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http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,18167.msg293260.html#msg293260

JC Carbonel said:
That's Nord Minerve bomber firing its strategic missile. I had some exchanges with Mr Uhr about the missile but in the end he painted it magnificiently. Many books in the series had a blue-orientated colour and I wanted something different. I had initially suggested a night scene, with light coming only from the missile flame. But we ended with this golden hued cover. I am very pleased with Mr Uhr's work.

JCC
 
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