The AGM-86B and C Air-Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCM) were developed to increase the
effectiveness of B-52 bombers. In combination, they dilute an enemy's forces and
complicate defense of its territory.
The small, winged AGM-86B is powered by a turbofan jet engine that propels it at
sustained subsonic speeds. After launch, the missile's folded wings, tail surfaces and
engine inlet deploy. It then is able to fly complicated routes to a target through use of
a terrain contour-matching guidance system. During flight, this system compares surface
characteristics with maps of the planned flight route stored in on-board computers to
determine the missile's location. As the missile nears its target, comparisons become more
specific, guiding the missile to target with pinpoint accuracy.
and the AGM-86B increase
flexibility to attack targets. AGM-86B missiles can be air-launched in large numbers by
the bomber force. The B-52H
six AGM-86B missiles on each of two externally mounted pylons and have been modified with
a bomb bay rotary launcher for eight additional air-launched cruise missiles. The AGM-86C
differs from the B model in that it is a conventional air-launched cruise missile.
An enemy force would have to counterattack each of the missiles, making defense against
them costly and complicated. The enemy's defenses are further hampered by the missiles'
small size and low-altitude flight capability, which makes them difficult to detect on
In February 1974, the Air Force entered into contract to develop and flight-test the
prototype AGM-86A air-launched cruise missile, which was slightly smaller than the later B
and C models. The 86A model did not go into production. Instead, in January 1977, the Air
Force began full-scale development of the AGM-86B, which greatly enhanced the B-52's
capabilities and helped America maintain a strategic deterrent.
Production of the initial 225 AGM-86B missiles began in fiscal year 1980 and production
of a total 1,715 missiles was completed in October 1986. The air-launched cruise missile
had become operational four years earlier, in December 1982, with the 416th Bombardment
Wing, Griffiss Air Force Base, N.Y., which deactivated when the base closed in 1995.
In June 1986 a limited number of AGM-86B missiles were converted to carry a
high-explosive blast/fragmentation warhead and were redesignated as the AGM-86C model.
This modification also replaced the missiles' terrain contour-matching guidance system by
integration of a Global Positioning System capability with the existing inertial
navigation computer system. The C model became operational in January 1991 at the onset of
Operation Desert Storm. B-52s, flying "round-robin" missions from Barksdale
, La., at designated launch points in the U. S. Central Command's area of
responsibility, attacked high-priority targets in Iraq. These missions marked the
beginning of the air campaign for Kuwait's liberation and are the longest known aircraft
combat sorties in history (more than 14,000 miles and 35 hours of flight).
||Air-to-surface strategic missile
||Boeing Aerospace Co.; Litton Guidance and Control a
Rockwell-Collins Avionics (guidance system)
||Williams Research Corp. F-107-WR-10 turbofan engine
||20 ft 9 in
||High explosive; nuclear capable
||Active force, 1,628; ANG, 0; Reserve, 0
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