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Nuclear AIM-54

SOC

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There has been a little speculation about a nuclear-armed version of the AIM-54.

When studying the WSO's instrument panel in the F-111B looking for evidence that a weapon other than the AIM-54 was to be carried, I came across an interesting panel. There are four indicators above the AIM-54 control panel, labeled AIR HE, AIR SPCL, GND SPCL, and SP. The SPCL designator is a shortened form of "special", used to denote a nuclear store.

So the question then becomes, what was the "special" air-to-air weapon for the F-111B?

The only obvious conclusion I can draw is that a nuclear-armed version of the AIM-54 was planned at some point. The only other options would have been the USAF's AIM-26, which was not integrated on any Naval platform (nor were any of the AIM-4 relations), or the USAF's MB-1 Genie, which was not integrated on any naval platform either. That leaves either a brand-new weapon, or an AIM-54 with a nuclear warhead. The latter is a possibility, given the AIM-47 lineage and the fact that a nuclear warhead was studied for the AIM-47 at one point (although in that case it was dropped in favor of an HE warhead).

Interestingly, this also implies that the F-111B had a secondary nuclear strike capability, given the GND SPCL indicator. It also implies that there was absolutely no conventional A/G capability, and there is no evidence of provision for anything other than the AIM-54 insofar as conventional AAMs are concerned. There was one other interesting switch in the cockpit which apparently allowed the AIM-54 to be fired fully active right off the rail, implying that this was a capability of the weapon from the outset and not something added during the development leading up to integration of the weapon system with the F-14A. Lastly, there was a READY/SAFE/CLEAR switch by the pilot's control stick, implying that a gun was to be carried in some podded form. That switch was identifiable in one of the pre-production machine's cockpits as well.

Anyway, apart from proving that the F-111B really was to have been restricted to the Fleet Air Defense mission with the AIM-54, apart from a potential nuclear strike capability, this does raise the question of what happened to the nuclear AIM-54.

Anyone else have any information?
 

SOC

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Probably not as the Genie was a USAF weapon mated to various ADC interceptors. While it was trialled on the F-4C and F-104 I've never heard of it being tested on a USN aircraft.
 

Pioneer

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SOC said:
Probably not as the Genie was a USAF weapon mated to various ADC interceptors. While it was trialled on the F-4C and F-104 I've never heard of it being tested on a USN aircraft.


For years I have been trying to find photos / pics of an F-104 armed with a trial Genie AAM
Can anyone help????????????????????????????????????


Regards
Pioneer
 

SOC

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The only place I've seen a photo is in the WarbirdTECH volume on the F-104. It shows an F-104 mounted on a static test rig fitted with an experimental ventral fairing housing a semi-submerged Genie.
 

F-14D

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If I remember right, the Genie was unguided and therefore would be of no use to the USN
 

sferrin

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Matej said:
Is it right that the AIM-54 was never used in a real fight by a U.S. Navy, only by Iran?


They took a few shots in Iraq.
 

F-14D

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Quote from: Matej on October 29, 2007, 10:07:20 am
Is it right that the AIM-54 was never used in a real fight by a U.S. Navy, only by Iran?


They took a few shots in Iraq.

In Gulf War I Air Force did not permit USN to use AIM-54. There was an encounter afterwards where both USN using AIM-54 and F-15s using AIM-120 took shots at the extreme outer ranges of the two respective missiles, but got no kills.

Iran got a lot of kills with F-14/ AIM-54. Iraq became so afraid of the combination that in Gulf War I, when F-14A/Bs would light up their AWG-9s, the Iraqis would turn and run right then.
 

SOC

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After pillaging Ryan's SACs and whatnot, it would seem that the F-111B was going to carry quite a diverse weapons load. Shrike, Sidewinder, and various conventional and nuclear bombs. The SACs mention a gun pod as well, explaining the switch on the stick. But now everything is confused thanks to the weapons tables in the SACs. Has anyone uncovered anything else significant about the F-111B in the last two years? Was there a change at some point removing a lot of the weapons capability, maybe to save weight due in the avionics? 2 years later, and this is still fascinatingly confusing.
 

sferrin

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SOC said:
The only place I've seen a photo is in the WarbirdTECH volume on the F-104. It shows an F-104 mounted on a static test rig fitted with an experimental ventral fairing housing a semi-submerged Genie.

There's a video on youtube of the F-104 firing the Genie. Also there was an episode of "Great Planes" on the miltary channel a couple weeks ago on the F-104 that had a five or ten minutes on the F-104/Genie effort with lots of footage. very interesting.
 

r16

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somewhere on the Tomcat Sunset Forum , there is an account of a visiting USAF team to Kazakhistan and the friendly banter drifted to which American plane impressed the Kazakhs most . USAF team was naturally amused to discover that it was the F-14 with its unescapeable Nuke Phoenix . In the same thread there is also a brief mention of a personal experience of a "sting" to discover the veracity of any such claim of capability .
 

Abraham Gubler

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From the 1967 SAC all of the F-111B’s air to ground stores are unguided bombs, dispensers, flares and rockets. So they would not require additional avionics units to operate. The only thing requiring its on black box would be Shrike and the CP-741/A is listed on the avionics table.

Adding a nuclear laydown capability to the air to ground system would make sense considering the F-111B’s performance and the contemporary retirement of the A-5A. This would restore the long range, high and fast nuclear strike capability to the US Navy.

That’s a very good pickup on the AIR SPCL capability. A nuclear AIM-54 would provide improved terminal effectiveness against very high speed targets (Mach >3) that would challenge the prox fuse’s reaction time to keep the target within a lethal distance of the conventional warhead.

The AIM-54’s conventional warhead could have been replaced with a similar sized nuclear unit like the W54 (Davy Crockett, AIM-26) for 10 to 1,000 equivalent tonnes of TNT (x 160 to x 16,000 boost in explosive power over the conventional warhead). Not enough to destroy a spread out formation of bombers (kms) but more than enough to wipe out close formation or a Mach >3 follow on Soviet bomber.
 

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Abraham Gubler said:
From the 1967 SAC all of the F-111B’s air to ground stores are unguided bombs, dispensers, flares and rockets. So they would not require additional avionics units to operate. The only thing requiring its on black box would be Shrike and the CP-741/A is listed on the avionics table.

Adding a nuclear laydown capability to the air to ground system would make sense considering the F-111B’s performance and the contemporary retirement of the A-5A. This would restore the long range, high and fast nuclear strike capability to the US Navy.

That’s a very good pickup on the AIR SPCL capability. A nuclear AIM-54 would provide improved terminal effectiveness against very high speed targets (Mach >3) that would challenge the prox fuse’s reaction time to keep the target within a lethal distance of the conventional warhead.

The AIM-54’s conventional warhead could have been replaced with a similar sized nuclear unit like the W54 (Davy Crockett, AIM-26) for 10 to 1,000 equivalent tonnes of TNT (x 160 to x 16,000 boost in explosive power over the conventional warhead). Not enough to destroy a spread out formation of bombers (kms) but more than enough to wipe out close formation or a Mach >3 follow on Soviet bomber.

As far as I know, a nuclear AIM-54 was not seriously considered (although in the early-mid '60s there was still an enthusiasm for everything carrying a nuke), as the problems for shipboard and carrier air use would probably outweigh the advantages. It's worthy of note that the requirements for the far superior F-14, while specifying a robust air-to-ground capability did not include any nuclear capability.

Frankly, I'd never want to use an F-111B in a significant air to ground role (even if the wings could hold the stores) as it would be too much of a missile and flak magnet.
 

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The information is probably apocryphal, but I have heard that switch panel markings can have little to do with intended payloads. The mfr just puts it all on the panel to cover any contingency as the procurement process grinds onward. "Of course we can carry nukes, see, we have a switch!"


The example I was cited was the arming switch on the F-4, which apparently had CONVENTIONAL and NUCLEAR positions, but no SAFE position. Since, I was told, the F-4 did not normally carry nuclear weapons, the nuclear position was used as the 'safe' setting. My conjecture is that something like this could have been done on the F-111.


Again, probably apocryphal, probably wrong for numerous versions of the Phantom if not all, and likely completely wrong vis a vis the F-111.
 

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The Nuclear Weapons Databook Volume I: U.S. Nuclear Forces and Capabilities, by Thomas Cochran, William Arkin, Milton Hoenig (published by NRDC) has multiple mentions of a nuclear warhead project for the AIM-54, under study from FY82 through at least FY84 (detailed on pg 245).
 

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Good article from Air Force Magazine on US Nuclear Air Defense Systems.

http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Documents/2012/July%202012/0712nuclear.pdf
 

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A switch on the pilot's left-hand console of F-111B BuNo 151972, which was used for Phoenix missile system testing by Hughes...
 

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