« Back to List

AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile

The AGM-86 ALCM (Air-Launched Cruise Missile) is the major long-range standoff attack missile of the U.S. Air Force's B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers.

Status

In active service

Contractor

Manufacturer: Boeing

Origins

Development of the ALCM can be traced back to January 1968, when the USAF drew up a requirement for a vehicle called SCAD (Subsonic Cruise Aircraft Decoy). SCAD was to be a decoy missile carried by B-52 and B-1A bombers, which was to simulate the bombers on radar to disrupt enemy air-defense systems. Early in the concept phase it became clear that SCAD could also be fitted with a small nuclear warhead, and the acronym was accordingly changed to Subsonic Cruise Armed Decoy.

After full-scale development was approved, the expected cost of SCAD's advanced electronic systems rose dramatically. Soon, development was halted after it had become clear that it was more cost effective to develop a pure attack cruise missile without any decoy capability.

Following SCAD's cancellation, the USAF immediately started a new program for a long-range nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile, using SCAD as a starting point. Boeing was awarded a contract to develop the new missile.

Under a program called JCMP (Joint Cruise Missile Project), the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy were directed to develop their cruise missiles using a common technology base. This meant the cancellation of the short-range AGM-86A, shortly after it was cleared for full-scale production.

Timeline

July 1970 - Full scale development of the SCAD approved
June 1973 - SCAD development cancelled due to high costs
September 1974 - Contract awarded to Boeing to develop the new missile
March 1976 - First powered flight of the AGM-86A
September 1976 - First fully guided flight
January 1977 - AGM-86A cleared for full-scale production
1977 - AGM-86A cancellation date

AGM-86B

The AGM-86B is powered by a single turbofan engine, and armed with a W-80-1 variable-yield thermonuclear warhead. It is equipped with an inertial navigation system, which is updated until immediately before launch by the B-52's INS. The wings and control surfaces are folded to the fuselage, and are unfolded in about 2 seconds after launch. Once at low-level, the AGM-86B uses its AN/DPW-23 TERCOM system to find its way to the target.

Characteristics

Dimensions
Length: 6.32 meters 21 feet
Wingspan: 3.66 meters 12 feet
Diameter: 62.23 centimeters 24.5 inches
Weight
Weight: 1 450 kilograms 3 200 pounds
Features
Speed: 800 kilometers per hour 500 miles per hour
Range: 2 400 kilometers 1 500 miles
Engine thrust: 2.7 kilonewtons 607 pounds
Miscellaneous
Guidance system: Litton inertial navigation element with terrain contour-matching updates
Propulsion: Williams F107-WR-101 turbofan engine
Warhead: W-80-1 thermonuclear
Yield: 5-150 kilotons

Timeline

August 1979 - First test flight
March 1980 - The AGM-86B won the JCMP (Joint Cruise Missile Project) competition (against the AGM-109 air-launched version of Tomahawk)
August 1981 - Entered service with the U.S. Air Force
1986 - Production ended

AGM-86C

The main change in the AGM-86C is the substitution of the nuclear warhead with a conventional blast-fragmentation warhead. Therefore the missile is also known as CALCM (Conventional ALCM). The AGM-86C is also equipped with a GPS receiver for significantly increased accuracy. Because the CALCM is heavier than the nuclear ALCM, range is significantly reduced.

Block versions

The original AGM-86C is known as CALCM Block 0.

The Block I configuration uses improved avionics and GPS receiver and features a larger blast-fragmentation warhead. All existing Block 0 missiles were upgraded to Block I configuration.

Block IA is a further improvement to achieve very high precision terminal guidance. It features an extremely accurate optimized multi-channel GPS receiver, and also incorporates enhanced shallow and steep terminal dive capability.

Characteristics

Dimensions
Length: 6.32 meters 21 feet
Wingspan: 3.66 meters 12 feet
Diameter: 62.23 centimeters 24.5 inches
Weight
Weight: 1 950 kilograms (Block I) 4 300 pounds (Block I)
Warhead weight: 1 450 kilograms (Block I) 3 200 pounds (Block I)
Features
Speed: 800 kilometers per hour 500 miles per hour
Range: 1 200 kilometers (Block I) 750 miles (Block I)
Engine thrust: 2.7 kilonewtons 607 pounds
Miscellaneous
Guidance system: Litton inertial navigation element integrated with multi-channel onboard GPS
Propulsion: Williams F107-WR-101 turbofan engine
Warhead: HE blast-fragmentation

Timeline

1986 - Field date
1996 - First successful test of the Block I configuration
1998 - Block IA development started
January 2001 - Block IA entered service with the U.S. Air Force

AGM-86D

The AGM-86D CALCM Block II is equipped with a new AUP (Advanced Unitary Penetrator) penetrating warhead for use against deeply buried and/or hardened targets.

Characteristics

Dimensions
Length: 6.32 meters 21 feet
Wingspan: 3.66 meters 12 feet
Diameter: 62.23 centimeters 24.5 inches
Weight
Weight: 1 450 kilograms 3 200 pounds
Warhead weight: 540 kilograms 1 190 pounds
Features
Speed: 800 kilometers per hour 500 miles per hour
Range: 2 400 kilometers 1 500 miles
Engine thrust: 2.7 kilonewtons 607 pounds
Miscellaneous
Guidance system: Litton inertial navigation element integrated with multi-channel onboard GPS
Propulsion: Williams F107-WR-101 turbofan engine
Warhead: hard target penetrator

Timeline

November 2001 - First test flight