Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM)
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.