Air-based strategic cruise missile AGM-129A (ACM)

AGM-129A (ACM)

In 1982, analysts of the U.S. Air Force announced that by the end of the 80s, the combat efficiency of bombers of the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command may decline dramatically. The reason for the possible decline was, first of all, the potential growth of capabilities of the Soviet Air Defense Forces. Anti-aircraft systems, combined with the latest fighter-interceptors, DRLO aircraft and ground-based radars, were to displace strategic bombers from all heights and possible ranges of flight speeds. Equipping the aircraft with strategic airborne cruise missiles of the first generation (AGM-86B) was seen only as a partial solution to the problem, effective in a massive launch of these missiles. To solve the problem of preserving and increasing the effectiveness of U.S. strategic aviation, it was proposed to create various types of new-generation weapons based on new technologies. Special importance was attached to the development of Stealth technologies - technologies to reduce the visibility of warheads in all possible ranges, as well as ultra-modern electronics. The first strategic bomber-missile carrier of the U.S. Air Force, which in mass embodied this technological concept, was a supersonic Rockwell B-1B "Lancer", the entry of which into service units of the U.S. Air Force SAC began in 1985. The effective scattering surface of this aircraft in the course plane was reduced to about 10m2, which in order of magnitude corresponds to the aircraft of the "fighter-bomber" class. There should have been a new weapon for the aircraft.

In 1982, the U.S. Air Force announced a competition for the second-generation strategic airborne cruise missile (ALCM) to replace the AGM-86B. The main difference of the new missile was to be the reduced visibility in the main detection ranges. In addition, the missile was to have a significantly increased range, which would make it possible to move strategic bombers' combat patrol areas away from the effective air defense zone of the USSR. In order to save money, it was decided to equip the new missile with the same thermonuclear warhead as the AGM-86B. The program to create a new missile was called ACM ("Advanced Cruise Missile"). In 1983, after reviewing all the submitted proposals, the "Convair Division" of General Dynamics Corporation was selected as the main contractor. The missile was designated AGM-129A. Initially 2,500 new ALCMs were announced. In addition, it was decided to consider the option of placing these missiles on board the then world's first low-profile strategic bomber Northrop B-2A "Spirit". But the B-2A program was delayed and became more and more burdensome financially, forcing a regular reduction in the number of aircraft planned for production (a total of 21 machines). In addition, and the new B-1B suffered from a mass of shortcomings (numerous problems were observed in the control system and the system of REB), so it was decided to equip the latest AEC and Boeing B-52H "Stratofortress". The B-52Hs received an improved SPN/GEANS AN/ANS-136 inertial control system, GPS satellite navigation system receivers and other electronic equipment.

The first test launch of the new missile took place in July 1985. The first AGM-129A missiles received B-52H 410 heavy bomber wing aircraft of the U.S. Air Force SAC (C.I. Sawyer Air Base, Michigan) in July 1988. However, the program of development and deployment of the latest missiles suffered from a mass of problems of various properties. First of all, the number of missiles planned for production was systematically reduced - from 2500 first to 1460, and then to 1000 missiles. It became clear that the new missile would not replace, but only supplement the AGM-86B ALCM. The test program of the missile from the B-1B was folded (suspension units and related electronics were in one way or another equipped with only 3 planes of the released 100 units).

Due to the growing shaft of problems (both technical and administrative) related to the implementation of the program of development and production of a new missile, in 1987 began to consider the search for a second bidder for a tender to identify the best potential lead contractor. As a second bidder was selected by McDonnell Douglas Missile Systems, in 1987/1988 the company received $ 18 million from the Air Force to prepare its production facilities for the production of new missiles, audit of a new potential lead contractor for the evaluation. The tender between the two contractors was planned to be held in 1993, but in 1992 (by that time the new potential contractor had assembled only one RC) the tender was cancelled and the alternative contractor selection program was closed. In 1989 and 1991, the supply of new missiles was partially suspended until the problems identified were resolved. In 1989, Congress even suspended the program's funding. However, despite a number of unpleasant delays, the production of missiles and their equipment B-52H aircraft continued. In June 1990, the aircraft with AGM-129A missiles on board went on combat duty.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 had a serious impact on further plans of the Air Force to deploy the latest missile system. Already in January 1992, it was announced that the number of missiles produced will not exceed 640 pieces. In addition, the deployment of missiles was finally decided not to produce on B-1B aircraft, as well as B-2A. In August 1992, the General Dynamics Corporation sold its missile-building facilities to the Hughes Aircraft Corporation, thus becoming a new main contractor. In September of that year, regular flights of B-52H bombers with AGM-129A missiles in combat equipment were discontinued and the missiles were put into active reserve. In 1993, the assembly lines were closed after the release of 509 missiles (30 of them - pre-production and 1 pilot assembly of McDonnell Douglas).

The U.S. Air Force began researching for possible improvements to the AGM-129A back in 1985. The new version, AGM-129B, was to receive improved thermonuclear warheads and next-generation electronics (including a satellite navigation system receiver for control and guidance systems). In addition, it was planned to actively use new construction materials in production, which would reduce the inert mass of the rocket and its visibility. According to American experts, the new modification was planned to be used against targets where the AGM-129A missile proved ineffective (most likely, the new missile's thermonuclear warhead should have obtained "penetration" capability to destroy heavily buried/strengthened targets). It was planned to launch 125 missiles by deep upgrading the existing AGM-129A. However, the program was closed down in 1991 by a Congress decision. The development program of a non-nuclear modification designated AGM-129C has also been reported. The AGM-129C programme did not leave the conceptual design stage.

In 1997, Hughes Aircraft Corporation sold its missile-building facilities to Missile Systems division of Raytheon, which is now the main contractor for servicing these missiles. According to published data, as of August 2007, the U.S. Air Force had about 460 AGM-129A missiles.

In March 2007, the U.S. Air Force announced the withdrawal of AGM-129A missiles, their withdrawal from "nuclear offsets" and long-term storage by the end of 2008. The future fate of these missiles is not yet known, but it is possible to assume that they will be modified to the level of high-precision cruise missiles with non-nuclear shrapnel or penetrating BC. This is all the more likely given that the stockpile of AGM-86 missiles is limited and not renewable, and the only carrier of AGM-129A missiles - the strategic bomber B-52H "Stratofortress" will remain in service at least until 2030. Given the low visibility of AGM-129 ALCMs and their long range, the use of these missiles is most likely against countries with relatively advanced air defense and large areas with potential targets in the depths.


Стратегическая крылатая ракета

ACE AGM-129A is made according to the normal aerodynamic scheme, has a complex shape body with a polygonal head end fairing. The shape of the hull is optimized so as to minimize the missile's visibility in the radar range, as well as in the optical range as possible. The missile has folding and recessed high-altitude reverse boom wings and folding boom-like tail fins in the fuselage tail part. The keel is folding and placed at the tail end of the fuselage. Reverse sweep of the wings provided a reduced radar signature of the missile. Power drives for control planes were developed by the Allied Actuation Systems division of Allied Signal Aerospace. The air intake is installed in the tail of the missile under the fuselage.

The hull is made of strong aluminum alloys, organic and radio transparent materials. To reduce radar and infrared visibility, a special coating is applied to the hull, wing and stabilizer. The coating has a special color to reduce the visibility of the missile in the optical range. When choosing the shape of the missile body were taken into account the requirements of the Air Force - to provide the possibility of long-term presence of the ALCM on the external sling at supersonic speed of the aircraft carrier for a long time (3-4 hours), and the launch of the ALCM as the external sling nodes, and with the intra-phase multi-position rotating launcher CRM aircraft B-1B Lancer in flight at supersonic speed (up to 1300 km / h).

The AGM-129A rocket is equipped with a small-size highly efficient turbojet F112-WR-100 dual-circuit engine by Williams. The air intake and exhaust nozzle (so-called "beaver tail") are designed in such a way as to minimize the visibility of the missile in the radar range. In addition, when working on the propulsion system and the rocket exhaust nozzle, special attention was paid to measures to reduce the product's visibility in the infrared range (including through the effective mixing of exhaust gases with the surrounding air), as well as in the acoustic range. The efforts of engineers and scientists to reduce the visibility of the missile were successful - it is estimated that the EPR in the radio range for the AGM-129A missile in the course plane does not exceed 0.1 m2.

The warhead W-80-1 (mass 123 kg, length about 1 m, diameter 0.27 m) with a selective power option - 150cts or 5cts, which provides a flexible application of the missile, serves as a combat unit of the strategic AGM-129A ALCM. The projectile was developed by specialists of Los Alamos National Laboratory. It is detonated by a contact fuse. The destruction zone radius is 3 km. High firing accuracy and considerable power of the thermonuclear warhead allow to hit heavily protected small targets with high efficiency.

The TAINS (TERCOM Assisted Inertial Navigation System) control and guidance system developed by General Motors Corporation for AGM-129A ALCM is a combination of the following subsystems:

  • inertial,
  • TERCOM ("Terrain Contour Matching") terrain correction systems
  • a high-precision Doppler laser speed and drift meter.

The inertial control subsystem works on all sections of the missile's flight. It includes an on-board digital computer, a laser gyro unit for measuring the missile's angular deviation, an accelerometer unit and a barometer altimeter. The system provides definition of the missile's position with higher accuracy compared to AGM-86B by using not only new assemblies and electronics, but also new generation software and mathematical software. Up to separation of the ALCM from the launch vehicle, the inertial subsystem of the missile's control system is updated by coordinates of the current location and altitude. The role of the leading system in this process is played by the inertial control system of the launch vehicle.

B-52H carrier aircraft together with new missiles received a modified inertial control system on laser gyroscopes, combined with the satellite navigation system, which helped to increase the accuracy of firing. The AGM-129A missile's inertial control subsystem has increased resistance to PSNF and interference created by the enemy's REB.

The TERCOM correlating subsystem operates in the middle and end areas of the missile's flight. It includes an onboard digital computer, a special laser locator LIDAR ("LIght Detection And Ranging"), a set of reference maps of areas along the route of the missile. The use of the laser locator instead of a radio altimeter allowed, according to American experts, to significantly reduce the missile's own damaging electromagnetic field and improve the accuracy of determining the current terrain.

The principle of operation of the TERCOM subsystem is based on comparing the terrain of a particular missile area with reference maps of the terrain along the route of its flight. The terrain is determined by comparing laser locator and barometric altimeter data. The former measures the altitude to the ground surface and the latter relative to sea level. Information on a particular terrain is digitally entered into the on-board computer, where it is compared with actual terrain data from reference area maps. The computer provides correction signals for the inertial control subsystem. The stability of the TERCOM subsystem and the necessary accuracy of the cruise missile location is achieved by selecting the optimal number and size of cells, the smaller their size, the more accurate the terrain and, therefore, the location of the missile. However, due to the limited memory of the on-board computer and the short time required to solve the navigation problem, some nominal cell size is adopted. The entire cruise missile flight path over land is broken down into several tens of correction areas of certain length and width. The adopted quantitative characteristics of cells and correction areas, according to the U.S. experts, provide the cruise missile to reach the target even when flying over flat terrain.

Finally, laser Doppler speed and demolition meter allows to determine with high accuracy the speed and demolition of the missile, including in conditions of active radio counteraction of the enemy. The use of accurate information on current flight speed and available drift makes it possible to significantly compensate for own errors of the inertial control subsystem.

Монтирование ракет на самолет

AGM-129A rocket is a high-precision means of delivering thermonuclear ammunition to the target - according to some sources, the missile's QE at maximum range is about 30m. In the memory of the main control system BCVM missiles are stored coordinates of several potential targets, the choice of one of which can be provided using a special system of the navigator-bomber aircraft carrier during the flight, which increases the flexibility of the missile.

Bombers B-52H can carry up to 12 ACM missiles on two pylons under wings. Each pylon can carry 6 KR and is docked to the B-52 aircraft's suspension unit located between the fuselage and the engine's inner pylon. The data on the possibility of the new CSRL (Common Strategic Rotary Launcher) placement on the rotating multi-position launcher CSRL are quite controversial - according to some data 8 (according to some data - 4) CSRL can be placed on the CSRL. However, a number of sources indicate that it is impossible to use the CSRL to host a new CR.

Assessing the project, it can be noted that the Americans managed to create a powerful low-profile strategic air-based cruise missile, which significantly increased the striking capabilities of strategic aviation. However, technical difficulties and the financial and political situation in the late 80s - early 90s prevented the deployment of this weapon system in the planned volume.


Length, m 6,35
Wingspan, m 3,10
Hull diameter, m 0,705
Start weight, kg 1680
Weight BC, kg 123
BC power, kt. 5/150
Engine traction medium, kN 3,25
Cruising speed, km/h. 800
Range of fire, km 3700
KVO, m not exceeding 90


On 28 June 2000 (or 2008, which is more likely), 25 Grad-M multiple launch rocket systems were delivered to Georgia via the delivery channel from the settlement of Oktyabrsky to the settlement of Batumi by the ship "Evgenia N". The firm-supplier is SC "Ukrspetseksport".


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  3. From Snark to Peacekeeper: a pictorial history of Strategic Air Command missiles / SAC HQ Office of the Historian, 1990.
  4. Strategic Air Command and the Alert program: a brief history / SAC HQ Office of the Historian, 1988.
  5. SAC Missile Chronology 1939-1988 / by Office of the Historian HQ SAC. OH HQ SAC, Offut AFB, NE, 1990.
  6. Стратегические бомбардировщики и ракетоносцы зарубежных стран / В.Е. Ильин и И.В. Кудишин. Москва, АСТ Астрель, 2002.

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Control sys.:
3700 km.