[1 Apr 1960* – 1 Jul 1962], Eglin AF Aux Field #9 (Hurlburt Field), FL. Description: Azure, on a pile issuing from sinister base, Or between in chief a line of three mullets diminishing to dexter Argent fimbriated dark blue and in base an atomic symbol of four orbits of the last voided of the third; a missile bendwise Gules garnished of the fourth (nose band, wing tips, and lower fuselage), all within a diminutive border of the third. Significance: Our emblem is symbolic of the wing’s ability to employ defense missiles in either training or combat situations. The stars, diminishing in size, denote a long-range capacity. The nuclear symbol represents atomic warhead capability and symbolizes a constant quest for weapon and training improvement through science. The AF colors, ultramarine blue and golden yellow, indicate the wing is a unit of the USAF. The national colors, red, white, and blue, reflect the patriotism of our men. Approved: 31 March 1959 Commentary: After being training by Boeing, instructors in this wing developed and conducted the BOMARC training program, preparing missileers for duty at the BOMARC missile squadrons from the East Coast through the upper Midwest and Canada. The organization was transferred from ADC to TAC on 1 July 1962. *NOTE: This wing was organized on 15 January 1958 as the 4751st Air Defense Missile Wing, but in 1960 that designation was changed to 4751st Air Defense Wing (Missile), as seen on this patch. Patches with the original designation have not been seen.
The BOMARC squadrons were supported by the usual array of munitions, maintenance, security, supply, transportation, and medical organizations, located at the nearby support base, usually only a few miles from the missile launch complex. Most of the support squadrons were under Combat Support Groups or Air Base Groups. Not all such units had official emblems, and even fewer had patches. This album contains those that are known.
ADC’s initial plans called for some 52 BOMARC sites around the U.S., each equipped with 120 missiles (6,240 missiles total), but as defense budgets decreased during the 1950s, the number of sites dropped substantially. Ongoing development and reliability problems didn’t help, nor did Congressional debate over the missile’s usefulness and necessity. In June 1959, the Air Force authorized 16 BOMARC sites with 56 missiles each; the initial five would get the IM-99A with the remainder getting the IM-99B. However, in March 1960, HQ USAF cut deployment to just eight sites in the United States and two in Canada. The first USAF operational BOMARC unit was the 46th Air Defense Missile Squadron (ADMS), activated and organized in early 1959. The 46 ADMS was assigned to the New York Air Defense Sector at McGuire AFB, NJ. The four-month training program, under the 4751 ADW, used technicians acting as instructors. Training included missile maintenance, SAGE operations, and launch procedures, including the launch of an unarmed missile at Eglin’s Santa Rosa Island facility. In September 1959, the squadron assembled at their permanent station, the BOMARC site near McGuire AFB, and trained for operational readiness. The first BOMARC-A missiles were delivered to McGuire on 19 September 1959, and the BOMARC squadron near Kincheloe AFB received the first BOMARC-B missiles. While several of the squadrons replicated earlier fighter interceptor unit numbers, all BOMARC units were new organizations with no previous historical counterpart, meaning there were no “lineage and honors” to inherit, so each unit got a newly created emblem.
The Atlas tactical units were supported by the usual array of munitions, maintenance, security, supply, transportation, and medical organizations, most of which were under Combat Support Groups or Air Base Groups. Not all such units had official emblems, and even fewer had patches. This album contains those that are known.
Although the 564 SMS at Francis E. Warren AFB, WY is often credited as this country’s first operational ICBM squadron, to provide the U.S. with an interim or emergency ICBM capability, in September 1959 the Air Force deployed three SM-65D Atlas missiles on open launch pads at Vandenberg AFB, CA, under the operational control of the 576 SMS, 704 SMW. Completely exposed to the elements, the three missiles were serviced by a gantry crane. Beginning on 31 October 1959, at least one missile was on operational alert at all times. One source says they remained on alert until 1 May 1964. During the interim, SAC deployed 11 operational Atlas ICBM squadrons in other parts of the nation. Each of the three missile variants, the Atlas D, E, and F series, were deployed in progressively more secure launchers. In addition to the open pads at Vandenberg, there were also semi-hardened bunkers that were used for development and testing purposes at that base. Similar facilities were built for the first squadrons at Francis E. Warren AFB, where the 564 SMS was organized on 1 July 1958 (the 576 at Vandenberg was activated three months earlier). The 564 SMS was equipped with six Atlas-D missiles in above-ground launchers. Three additional Atlas-D squadrons, two near F.E. Warren AFB and one at Offutt AFB, NE were also based in above-ground launchers that provided blast protection against slight over-pressures (about 5 psi). These tactical units were: 564 SMS (6 missiles), 565 SMS (9 missiles), and 549 SMS (9 missiles). The first site at Warren for the 564 SMS consisted of six launchers grouped together, controlled by two launch operations buildings, and clustered around a central guidance control facility. This was called the 3×2 configuration: two launch complexes of three missiles each constituted a squadron. At the second Warren site for the 565 SMS and at Offutt for the 549 SMS, the missiles were based in a 3×3 configuration: three launchers and one combined guidance control/launch facility constituted a launch complex, and three complexes comprised a squadron. A dispersal technique of separating the launch complexes by 20 to 30 miles was employed to reduce the risk that one powerful nuclear warhead could destroy multiple launch sites. The Atlas-E missiles were based in horizontal “semi-hard” facilities that protected the missile against over-pressures up to 25 psi. In this arrangement the missile, its support facilities, and the launch operations building were housed in reinforced concrete structures that were buried underground; only the roofs protruded above ground level. These were referred to as “coffin” launchers. The Atlas-E tactical units, each equipped with 9 missiles, were: 567 SMS at Fairchild AFB, WA; 548 SMS, Forbes AFB, KS; and 566 SMS, F.E. Warren AFB, WY. The six ATLAS-F squadrons were the first ICBMs to be stored vertically in underground silos. Built of heavily reinforced concrete, the huge silos were designed to protect the missiles from over-pressures of up to 100 psi. These tactical units, each equipped with 12 missiles, were: 550 SMS, Schilling AFB, KS; 551 SMS, Lincoln AFB, NE; 577 SMS, Altus AFB, OK; 578 SMS, Dyess AFB, TX; 579 SMS, Walker AFB, NM; and 556 SMS, Plattsburgh AFB, NY. Of all these units, only the 579 SMS at Walker was notorious. The squadron’s sites developed a bad reputation due to three missile explosions: On 1 June 1963, launch complex 579-1 was destroyed during a propellant loading exercise. On 13 February 1964, an explosion occurred during another propellant loading exercise, destroying launch complex 579-5. Again, a month later, on 9 March 1964, silo 579-2 fell victim to another explosion that occurred during a propellant loading exercise. Thankfully, these missiles were not mated with their warheads at the time of the incidents. And fortunately, the only injury reported was that of a crewman running into barbed wire as he fled the site.
In this album are the nuclear-armed, air-launched missiles not covered in the other albums in this section of the Gallery. These include the Bullpup, Falcon, Genie, Rascal, Skybolt, and the planned replacement for the ALCM: the Long Range Standoff (LRSO) missile. Also covered are some of the squadrons whose personnel maintained these weapons, and a few flying squadrons whose patches depicted the missiles or images alluding to them. You’ll see Dennis the Menace riding a Falcon AIM-4, the USAF’s first operational guided air-to-air missile, and several versions of the patch for the nuclear-armed version, the AIM-26 Falcon. The GAM-63 Rascal was the USAF’s first nuclear-armed standoff missile, and the GAM-87 Skybolt was designed to carry the same warhead as was deployed on Minuteman II missiles. There are quite a few patches pertaining to the MB-1/AIR-2 supersonic Genie missile, which we also deployed in Canada, supported by USAF personnel stationed at Canadian Forces fighter bases. Patches pertaining to more than one missile (e.g., both ALCM and ACM) are here also, as well as systems that were used in conjunction with them (i.e., the Common Strategic Rotary Launcher (CSRL). Finally, there are a number of LOADING patches specifying the positions of those wearing them for which we could use more information.
Produced in 1985, the AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile (ACM) was a low-observable (stealthy), subsonic, turbofan-powered, air-launched cruise missile originally designed and built by General Dynamics. The ACM was only an inch longer than the ALCM but about 550 pounds heavier, and its range was significantly greater than the ALCM’s. Like the ALCM, it carried a thermonuclear warhead. This missile was carried exclusively by B-52H Stratofortress bombers. Each one could carry up to six AGM-129A missiles on each of two external pylons for a total of 12 per aircraft. Originally, an additional 8 ACMs could be carried internally on the Common Strategic Rotary Launcher, for a total of 20 per aircraft. The B-1B bomber was also slated to carry the AGM-129A, but that plan ended when the Cold War did. The first test missile flew in July 1985. The first production missiles were delivered to the USAF in 1987 and the ACM entered service in June 1990. Initially, plans called for producing enough missiles to replace the approximately 1,461 AGM-86B ALCMs at a rate of 200 missiles per year after full-rate production was achieved in 1993, but in January 1992 the end of the Cold War resulted in a major cutback in total ACM procurement. The President determined that only 640 missiles were needed. Later, that number was reduced to just 460. In August 1992, General Dynamics sold its missile business to Hughes Aircraft Corporation, and five years later Hughes sold its aerospace and defense business to the final production contractor, Raytheon. Reductions in nuclear weapons mandated by the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) requirement to get below 2,200 deployed nuclear weapons by 2012 resulted in the 2007 decision to retire the entire inventory of ACMs because of the missile’s reliability issues and higher maintenance costs. The last missile was destroyed in April 2012.
The AGM-86 Air Launch Cruise Missile (ALCM) is a subsonic weapon built by Boeing for the USAF. This missile was developed to increase the effectiveness and survivability of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. The first example flew for the first time in March 1976, less than a year after retirement of the last Hound Dog missile, which the ALCM replaced. In January 1977, the missile was ordered into full-scale production. Compared to the models that entered service in the 1980s, the A-model had a distinctive look; the nose tapered sharply to a triangular point giving it a shark-like appearance, compared to the later models which had a more rounded conventional appearance. Production of the initial 225 AGM-86B missiles began in FY 1980. It entered operational use on the B-52H in August 1981 and became its primary weapon in December 1982. Production of a total 1,715 missiles was completed in October 1986. B-52H bombers can carry six AGM-86B or AGM-86C missiles on each of two externally mounted pylons and eight internally on a rotary launcher, giving the bomber a maximum capacity of 20 missiles per aircraft. The nuclear armed AGM-86B uses a terrain contour-matching guidance system (TERCOM) to fly to its assigned target. The missile’s range is classified, but it is about 21 feet long (half the length of the Hound Dog) and weighs a little over 3,000 pounds. In 2007 the USAF announced its intention to reduce the ALCM fleet by more than 500 missiles, leaving 528 nuclear cruise missiles. The ALCM force consists of B-52s based at Minot AFB, ND and Barksdale AFB, LA. Even with the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP), the remaining AGM-86s were to reach their end of service by 2020, leaving the B-52 without a nuclear missile. However, in 2012, the USAF announced plans to extend the useful life of the missiles until at least 2030. The projected replacement for the ALCM is the new Long-Range Stand-Off (LRSO) weapon, now in development.
The Boeing AGM-69 Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM) was a nuclear-armed, supersonic (Mach 3), air-to-surface missile. It had an operational range of about 60-120 miles and, like its predecessor, the Hound Dog missile, was intended to enable USAF bombers to penetrate enemy airspace by neutralizing surface-to-air missile defenses. Unlike the Hound Dog however, the SRAM was so much smaller that more than just two could be carried, allowing a single bomber to take out multiple defensive sites, unassisted by other aircraft, and deliver its primary weapons on its assigned target(s). The SRAM entered service in 1972, before all Hound Dogs were retired, and was carried by a number of aircraft, including the B-52, FB-111A, and B-1. A new weapon, the AGM-131 SRAM II, designed specifically for the B-1B, began development in 1981 with a planned IOC of 1993. Also, the SRAM II air vehicle was the basis for a tactical nuclear variant, the SRAM T, which employed a different warhead with a selectable yield. It had a longer range than the baseline SRAM II, around 250 miles. As a NATO theater nuclear weapon, SRAM-T was to be carried by the F-15E and F-111, but it was also compatible with the F-16 and the Tornado. Deployment of SRAM-T was planned for 1995. Both SRAM II and SRAM-T were canceled in September 1991 by President George H.W. Bush, along with most of the U.S. Strategic Modernization effort (including Peacekeeper Rail-Garrison, the Small ICBM, and a Minuteman III modernization program), in an effort by the U.S. to ease nuclear pressure on the disintegrating Soviet Union. The SRAM was removed from service in 1993, by which time its mission was rendered obsolete by the introduction of the AGM-86 ALCM, which carried a more powerful warhead and could be launched from far outside the range of enemy weapons–meaning bombers no longer needed to penetrate air defenses and could be used as stand-off platforms for weapons deployment.