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U.S. Military Weapons of War
Part 2: Non-Nuclear Bombs and Missiles
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Part one of this feature detailed some of the main weapons and equipment items used by the individual servicemember in combat. For the really big bangs, the military relies on its extensive arsenal of non-nuclear bombs and missiles.

Most of these bombs and missiles are designed to be dropped and/or fired from military aircraft. There are some exceptions, however. For example, the Navy's Tomahawk Cruise Missile is specifically designed to be launched from Navy ships and submarines.


Most (I'm tempted to say all) military missiles are considered to be smart. By "smart," I mean that they are guided internally or externally to impact in a precise area. There are two primary ways to accomplish this -- either through GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) guidance, or through laser guidance.

Today, GPS is the guidance system of choice, because it is more reliable than laser guidance, and usually a lot easier to use. In most cases, for laser guidance, you have to have a separate aircraft or personnel on the ground to illuminate the target with a laser beam.

Tomahawk® Cruise Missile. The Tomahawk® is a long range, subsonic cruise missile used for land attack warfare, launched from surface ships and submarines.

The Tomahawk® cruise missiles are designed to fly at extremely low altitudes at high subsonic speeds, and are piloted over an evasive route by several mission tailored guidance systems. The first operational use was in Operation Desert Storm, 1991, with immense success. The missile has since been successfully used in several other conflicts. In 1995 the governments of the United States and United Kingdom signed a Foreign Military Sales Agreement for the acquisition of 65 missiles, marking the first sale of Tomahawk® to a foreign country. After a November 1998 launch and live warhead test, the U.K. declared operational capability.

The first production version of the Tomahawk® (known as "Block II") used a Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) and Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation (DSMAC) missile guidance system. In other words, the missile used a camera to look at the terrain it was following, and compared it to the terrain map in its memory. The 2nd generation (Block III) added a Global Positioning Satellite guidance capability to TERCOM and DSMAC.

Radar detection of the missile is extremely difficult because of the small radar cross-section and low altitude. Tomahawk® has two warhead configurations: a 1,000-lb. blast/fragmentary unitary warhead and a general-purpose submunition dispenser with combined effect bomblets (cluster bombs). Because of its long range, lethality, and extreme accuracy Tomahawk® has become the weapon of choice for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Tactical Tomahawk®, the next generation Tomahawk® cruise missile adds the capability to reprogram the missile while in-flight to strike any of 15 pre-programmed alternate targets or redirect the missile to any Global Positioning System (GPS) target coordinates. It also will be able to loiter over a target area, and with its on-board camera, will allow the warfighting commanders to assess target battle damage. Launched from the Navy's forward-deployed ships and submarines, Tactical Tomahawk®, will provide a greater flexibility to the on-scene commander. Tactical Tomahawk is projected to enter service in 2004.

Primary Function: long-range subsonic cruise missile for striking high value or heavily defended land targets.
Contractor: Raytheon Systems Company, Tucson, Ariz.
Unit Cost: approximately $600,000 (from last production contract)
Power Plant: Williams International F107-WR-402 cruise turbo-fan engine; CSD/ARC solid-fuel booster
Length: 18 feet 3 inches (5.56 meters); with booster: 20 feet 6 inches (6.25 meters)
Weight: 2,900 pounds (1,315.44 kg); 3,500 pounds (1,587.6 kg) with booster
Diameter: 20.4 inches (51.81 cm)
Wing Span: 8 feet 9 inches (2.67 meters)
Range: 870 nautical miles (1000 statute miles, 1609 km)
Speed: Subsonic - about 550 mph (880 km/h)
Guidance System: TERCOM, DSMAC, and GPS (Block III only)
Warheads: 1,000 pounds or conventional submunitions dispenser with combined effect bomblets.
Date Deployed: 11986 - IOC; 1994 - Block III; 2004 - Tactical Tomahawk®

AGM - 86 Cruise Missiles. The AGM-86 Cruise Missile as specifically designed to be air-launched from Air Force B-52H bomber aircraft. There are two versions of the AGM-86. The AGM-86B (the first model produced) is a nuclear weapon. The AGM-86C is non-nuclear high explosive. While this feature is primarily concerned with non-nuclear weapons, in this case, we must also discuss the nuclear version, because the non-nuclear version was developed from the nuclear weapon.

B-52H bombers carry six AGM-86 (either nuclear or non-nuclear) 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. The small, winged AGM-86B/C 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 86C uses an onboard Global Positioning System (GPS) coupled with its inertial navigation system (INS) to fly. This allows the missile to guide itself to the target with pinpoint accuracy.

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 an internal GPS. They were redesignated as the AGM-86C CALCM. This modification also replaced the B model's terrain contour-matching guidance system and integrated a GPS capability with the existing inertial navigation computer system.

The CALCM became operational in January 1991 at the onset of Operation Desert Storm. Seven B-52s, from Barksdale AFB, La., 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 in history (more than 14,000 miles and 35 hours of flight).

Prior to the 2nd Gulf War, CALCM's most recent employment occurred in Sept. 1996 during Operation Desert Strike. In response to Iraq's continued hostilities against the Kurds in northern Iraq, the Air Force launched 13 CALCMs in a joint attack with the Navy. This mission has put the CALCM program in the spotlight for future modifications.

In 1996 and 1997, 200 additional CALCMs were produced from excess ALCMs. These missiles, designated Block I, incorporate 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 was retrofitted into all existing CALCM (Block 0) so all AGM-86C missiles are electronically identical.

The AGM-86D CALCM Block II is equipped with a new Lockheed Martin 540 kg (1200 lb) AUP (Advanced Unitary Penetrator) penetrating warhead for use against deeply buried and/or hardened targets. The first flight test of an AGM-86D occurred in November 2001, and it is currently planned to produce almost 200 CALCMs as AGM-86Ds.

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 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-86C: 600 nautical miles (nominal); classified (specific)
Speed: AGM 86C, high subsonic (nominal), classified (specific)
Guidance System: AGM 86C, Litton INS element integrated with multi-channel onboard GPS
Warheads: AGM-86C; Block 0, 2,000 pound class, and Block I , 3,000 pound class
Unit Cost: AGM-86B, $1 million; AGM-86C, additional $160,000 conversion cost
Date Deployed: AGM-86C, January 1991
Inventory: AGM-86C, 239, Block 0, 41; Block I, 198

AGM - 65 Maverick. The AGM-65 Maverick is a tactical, air-to-surface guided missile designed for close air support, interdiction and defense suppression mission. It provides stand-off capability and high probability of strike against a wide range of tactical targets, including armor, air defenses, ships, transportation equipment and fuel storage facilities. The Maverick is launched from fighter aircraft of the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.

The Maverick has a cylindrical body, and either a rounded glass nose for electro-optical imaging, or a zinc sulfide nose for imaging infrared. It has long-chord delta wings and tail control surfaces mounted close to the trailing edge of the wing of the aircraft using it. The warhead is in the missile's center section. A cone-shaped warhead, one of two types carried by the Maverick missile, is fired by a contact fuse in the nose. The other is a delayed-fuse penetrator, a heavyweight warhead that penetrates the target with its kinetic energy before firing. The latter is very effective against large, hard targets. The propulsion system for both types is a solid-rocket motor behind the warhead.

A-10, F-15E and F-16 (Air Force) aircraft and F-14 and F-18 (Marine Corps & Navy) aircraft carry Mavericks. Since as many as six Mavericks can be carried by an aircraft, usually in three round, underwing clusters, the pilot can engage several targets on one mission. The missile also has "launch-and-leave" capability that enables a pilot to fire it and immediately take evasive action or attack another target as the missile guides itself to the target. Mavericks can be launched from high altitudes to tree-top level and can hit targets ranging from a distance of a few thousand feet to 13 nautical miles at medium altitude. The AGM-65F (infrared targeting) used by the Navy has a larger (300 pound; 136 kg) penetrating warhead vice the 125 pound (57 kg) shaped charge used by Marine and Air Force) and infrared guidance system optimized for ship tracking.

More than 5,000 AGM-65 A/B/D/E/F/G's were employed during Operation Desert Storm, mainly attacking armored targets. Mavericks played a large part in the destruction of Iraq's significant military force.

Maverick A and B models have an electro-optical television guidance system. After the protective dome cover is automatically removed from the nose of the missile and its video circuitry activated, the scene viewed by the guidance system appears on a cockpit television screen. The pilot selects the target, centers cross hairs on it, locks on, then launches the missile.

Although the Maverick B is similar to the A model, the television guidance system has a screen magnification capability that enables the pilot to identify and lock on smaller and more distant targets.

The Maverick D has an imaging infrared guidance system, operated much like that of the A and B models, except that infrared video overcomes the daylight-only, adverse weather limitations of the other systems. The infrared Maverick D can track heat generated by a target and provide the pilot a pictorial display of the target during darkness and hazy or inclement weather.

The Maverick G model essentially has the same guidance system as the D, with some software modifications that track larger targets. The G model's major difference is its heavyweight penetrator warhead, while Maverick A, B and D models employ the shaped-charge warhead.

Maverick K models are currently in development. They were developed by taking a G model and replacing the IR guidance system with an electro-optical (EO) television guidance system.

Primary Function: Air-to-surface guided missile
Contractors: Hughes Aircraft Co., Raytheon Co.
Power Plant: Thiokol TX-481 solid-propellant rocket motor
Launch Weight: AGM-65A/B, 462 pounds (207.90 kilograms); AGM-65D, 485 pounds (218.25 kilograms); AGM-65G, 670 pounds (301.50 kilograms)
Diameter: 1 foot (30.48 centimeters)
Wingspan: 2 feet, 4 inches (71.12 centimeters)
Range: Classified
Speed: Classified
Guidance System: AGM-65A/B, electro-optical television; AGM-65D/G, imaging infrared
Warheads: AGM-65A/B/D, 125 pounds (56.25 kilograms), cone shaped; AGM-65G, 300 pounds (135 kilograms) delayed-fuse penetrator, heavyweight
Unit Cost: $17,000 to $110,000 depending on the Maverick variant
Date Deployed: August 1972
Inventory: Classified

Next page > More Missiles > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

Above Photographs Official U.S. Air Force & Navy Photographs


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