Douglas GAM-87 Skybolt
| The Douglas GAM-87 Skybolt was an air-launched ballistic missile
that SAC wanted for its B-52H. He Stratofortress would have
carried two under each wing. Armed with a W59 nuclear
warhead in a Mk. 7 re-entry vehicle, development was initiated in the
late 1950s. The decision to proceed with the Skybolt was made in
February 1960, with initial deployment projected for 1964. In June of
1960, the British government ordered 100 Skybolts to be carried by the
Avro Vulcan. However, in December of 1962, President Kennedy cancelled
the Skybolt missile in accordance with the recommendations of
Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara. The cancellation was
condemned by General Lemay in his autobiography.
1958 Studies shown that it was feasible to air-launch ballistic missiles
from high-flying strategic bombers, the USAF issued a requirement in
1959 for a long-range ALBM (Air-Launched Ballistic Missile). In May
1959, Douglas was awarded a development contract for the WS (Weapons
System) 138A missile, designated GAM-87 Skybolt. Douglas subsequently
awarded development subcontracts to Nortronics (guidance system),
Aerojet General (propulsion), and General Electric (reentry vehicle).
The GAM-87 was intended for use by the B-52H Statofortress and the
British Vulcan B.2. Full-scale development was approved in February
1960, and in January 1961, the first drop tests of unpowered Skybolts
occurred. Powered and guided flight tests of XGAM-87A prototypes began
in April 1962, but the first five tests were all failures.
The first fully successful Skybolt flight
occurred on 19 December 1962, but on that same day the whole program
was cancelled and the production of the operational GAM-87A stopped.
Although Skybolt certainly had its technical difficulties and was well
behind schedule, the cancellation was also very much influenced by
economical and political factors.
||11.66 m (38 ft 3 in)
||1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)
||89 cm (35 in)
||5000 kg (11000 lb)
||15300 km/h (9500 mph)
||480+ km (300+ miles)
||1850 km (1150 miles)
two-stage solid-fueled rocket