The AGM-86B air-launched cruise missile, or ALCM, and AGM-86C/D conventional air-launched cruise missile, or CALCM, were developed to increase the effectiveness of B-52H bombers. In combination, they dilute an enemy's forces and complicate defense of its territory.
The small, winged AGM-86B/C/D missile 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. The AGM-86B carries a nuclear payload and is able to fly complicated routes to a target through the use of a terrain contour-matching guidance system. The AGM-86C carries a conventional blast/fragmentation payload and the AGM-86D carries a conventional penetrating warhead. Both conventional variants employ a GPS aided inertial navigation system.
AGM-86B/C/D missiles increase flexibility in target selection and can be air-launched in large numbers by the bomber force. B-52H bombers carry six AGM-86B/C/D missiles on each of two externally mounted pylons and eight internally on a rotary launcher, giving the B-52H a maximum capacity of 20 missiles per aircraft.
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 radar.
In February 1974, the Air Force solicited development and flight-test of the prototype AGM-86A air-launched cruise missile, which was slightly smaller than the later B, C and D models. The AGM-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 a production total of 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, New York, which deactivated when the base closed in 1995. Besides its initial basing at Griffiss AFB, the ALCM was based at Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota, Wurtsmith AFB, Michigan, Fairchild AFB, Washington, Eaker AFB, Arkansas, and Carswell AFB, Texas. Currently, the ALCM is located at Minot AFB, North Dakota, and Barksdale AFB, Louisiana.
In June 1986, a limited number of AGM-86B missiles were retrofitted to carry a high-explosive blast/fragmentation warhead. The Air Force designated this CALCM as the AGM-86C. This modification also replaced the B model's terrain contour-matching guidance system and integrated an onboard Global Positioning System coupled with its inertial navigation system to fly. This allows the missile to guide itself to the target with pinpoint accuracy.
The CALCM became operational in January 1991 at the onset of Operation Desert Storm. Seven
B-52s from Barksdale AFB launched 35 missiles at designated launch points in the U. S. Central Command's area of responsibility to attack high-priority targets in Iraq. These "round-robin" missions marked the beginning of the air campaign for Kuwait's liberation and are the longest known aircraft combat sorties up to that time (more than 14,000 miles and 35 hours of flight). Furthermore, this long-range standoff weapon that has been employed effectively in combat in operations: Desert Storm, Desert Strike, Desert Fox, Allied Force, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
During the period of 1996 through 2001, the Air Force contracted the conversion of excess ALCM inventory to produce 200 additional CALCMs. This missile variant, designated Block I, incorporated improvements such as a larger and improved conventional payload (3,000-pound blast class), a multi-channel GPS receiver and integration of the buffer box into the GPS receiver. The upgraded avionics package also retrofitted all existing CALCM (Block 0) inventory. So, all AGM-86C missiles became electronically identical. Additionally, this included a small inventory of missiles produced with a penetrating warhead capability designated as the AGM-86D.
In early spring of 2019, Air Force Global Strike Command retired the CALCM weapon system as more advanced long-range, stand-off weapons entered the active stockpile.
The AGM-86C/D missiles previously based at Fairchild AFB, Washington, and Andersen AFB, Guam, are now retired from the stockpile and are being stored at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, awaiting demilitarization funding.
Primary Function: Air-to-ground strategic cruise missile
Contractor: Boeing Defense and Space Group
Guidance Contractors: Litton Guidance and Control and Interstate Electronics Corp (AGM-86C/D model)
Power Plant: Williams Research Corp. F-107-WR-10 turbofan engine
Thrust: 600 pounds
Length: 20 feet, 9 inches (6.3 meters)
Weight: 3,150 pounds (1,429 kilograms)
Diameter: 24.5 inches (62.23 centimeters)
Wingspan: 12 feet (3.65 meters)
Range: AGM-86B: 1,500-plus miles; AGM-86C: 600 nautical miles (nominal)
Speed: AGM-86B, about 550 mph (Mach 0.73); AGM-86C/D, high subsonic (nominal)
Guidance System: AGM-86B, Litton inertial navigation element with terrain contour-matching updates; AGM 86C/D, Litton INS element integrated with multi-channel onboard GPS
Warheads: AGM-86B, nuclear capable; AGM-86C: Block 0, 2,000-pound class, and Block I, 3,000-pound class; AGM-86D, advance unitary penetrating warhead, 1,200-pound class
Unit Cost: AGM-86B, $1 million; AGM-86C, additional $160,000 conversion cost; AGM-86D, additional $896,000
Date Deployed: AGM-86B, December 1982; AGM-86C, January 1991; AGM-86D, November 2001
Inventory: AGM-86B, active force, 536; ANG, 0; Reserve, 0
AGM-86C, 186, Block 0, 12; Block I, 174
Point of Contact
Air Force Global Strike Command, Public Affairs Office; 245 Davis Avenue East, Suite 198; Barksdale AFB, LA 71110; DSN 781-1305 or 318-456-7844; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Current as of August 2019)