Air launch remains in the plans of the Pentagon
In particular, during 1966 – 1967, at the initiative of US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, a grandiose secret conceptual study was carried out without exaggeration on the possible future directions for the development of American strategic nuclear deterrent forces. The grandeur of this study, known as STRAT-X (Strategic-Experimental), can be appreciated at least by the fact that the volume of the final report on its results was 20 volumes. The latter, among other things, contained a recommendation to explore the possibility of creating a strategic air-launched missile system with a ballistic missile of an air launch based on an ICBM of the MX type and a carrier aircraft based on a wide-body airliner, military transport aircraft or bomber.
"ZERO FOURTEEN" - IN READINESS
In order to confirm this possibility, tests of an experimental air launch system were carried out as part of a bunch of ICBMs of the Minuteman type IA and of the Galaxy C-5A military transport aircraft.
As part of this experimental program, one of the C-5A military transport aircraft, namely the first C-5A, transmitted by the manufacturer in 1971 to the Dover air force base in the USA and having the serial number 69-0014, was converted into an intercontinental ballistic carrier rockets. The plane, which thus received the call sign "zero fourteenth" (Zero-One-Four), was equipped with additional systems for fastening ICBMs inside the cargo compartment of the aircraft, parachuting the ICBM and controlling its launch. The tests were conducted by employees of the Space and Missile Systems Organization (SAMSO) Department with the assistance of experts from relevant organizations and were conducted mainly at the State testing ground for parachute systems in El Centro, California.
The preparatory process for testing an air launch ICBM prototype turned out to be difficult, since the prospective MX intercontinental ballistic missile in the air launch variant had to have a starting mass in the 22 – 86 t range (this allowed it to provide a range to 9 – 10 thousand km), its length was to be from 10 m to 22 m, and the diameter of the rocket was about 1,5 – 2,3 m. It was a real challenge for American specialists, since the missiles with such weight and size characteristics previously had airborne La never run. The largest rocket launched from an aerial platform at that time was the American “Skybolt” launch mass of “only” about 5 t, having a length of 11,66 m and a case diameter of 0,89 m.
After the conversion of the C-5A military transport aircraft allocated by the Air Force command, the American specialists first began to test the exhaust parachutes, and then from the carrier aircraft the paratrooper-made weight simulators (analogues) of intercontinental ballistic missiles, the weight of which, initially being 20, were parachuted t, was gradually brought to the required 38,7 t. At the same time, as indicated in foreign sources, not everything went smoothly - there were a hitch and a breakdown.
After completing the test phase of reinforced concrete weight imitators, American specialists began to drop the MiniMan IA type aircraft from the carrier aircraft, which were not equipped with fuel. In total, two such tests were carried out, which were recognized as successful and allowed to proceed to the next stage of the experimental program, namely, the test with the landing of the rocket and its subsequent launch.
This test - Air Mobile Feasibility Demonstration - was the latest in the series and was conducted on 24 on October 1974. In the course of it, the standard ICBM of the “Minuteman” type IA was used, in which only one was equipped with fuel - the first stage. The rocket was placed inside the cargo compartment of the aircraft carrier on a special dumped platform (rocket mass - 31,8 t, launch vehicle with platform - 38,7 t), while it was oriented with its upper part towards the cargo hatch of the aircraft - the missile’s landing forward".
The exhaust parachute landing system of the Minuteman IA IA was a two-domed one — the exhaust parachutes were attached directly to the platform on which the rocket was located. For the orientation of the rocket after discharge in the vertical starting position, three stabilizing parachutes were additionally used, which were attached to the upper (nose) part of the ICBM. All parachutes had the same diameter of the dome - 9,76 m. After some time, after the exhaust parachutes dumped the rocket on the platform from the cargo compartment of the aircraft carrier, the locks of the ICBM-to-platform attachment locks were activated, and the rocket was separated from the latter by three stabilizing parachutes (the rocket, as it were, “moved down” from the platform down and to the side), after which it continued to descend in a vertical position “nose up” until the moment of its launch.
The departure of the C-5A carrier aircraft with the IA Minuteman rocket took place from the Vandenberg Air Force Base, Santa Barbara, California. There were 13 people aboard the aircraft, including the 2 pilot and 11 test engineers, including specialists from Lockheed and Boeing (commander of the ship - Rodney Moore). A special “test” aircraft of type A-3 “Skywatch” was used as an escort aircraft, which was taking photographs and filming.
The launch vehicle was dropped over the Pacific Ocean, about 25 km west of the Vandenberg base. At the time of the landing of the ICBM, the aircraft was at an altitude of about 20 thousand feet (about 6 km) and flew horizontally. One of the test participants, sergeant-technician Elmer Hardin, in an interview with the magazine Hangar Digest published by the Air Force Command of the US Air Force, recalled the moment when the rocket left the carrier compartment: "I was even thrown a little over the cockpit floor" .
After dumping and separating the platform, the rocket dropped vertically, “nose up”, to an altitude of about 8 thousand feet (about 2,4 km), after which, in accordance with the test program, the first stage engine was turned on, which worked on the order of 10 s (according to other data , based on the memory of one of the test participants, Chief Master Sergeant James Sims, the engine continued 25 c).
During the operation of the first-stage engine, the rocket managed to rise to an altitude of about 30 thousand feet (about 9,1 km), that is, it was even higher than the echelon on which the C-5A aircraft carrier was located, and after the engine was turned off, it fell into the ocean. It should, however, be pointed out here that in various foreign sources there are two options with an indication of the height to which the rocket launched in the air could climb: 30 thousand feet and 20 thousand feet. Moreover, the sources in both cases are quite authoritative, including those that refer to the participants of the test. Which of them is still true, unfortunately, the author has not yet managed to find out. On the other hand, in a report by CNN correspondent Tom Patterson on 9 in August 2013, citing one of the participants in the 24 test in October 1974, chief master sergeant James Sims, it was stated that the C-5А was not flown from the base on board Vandenberg, and from the US Air Force Base Hilly, Utah.
FROM NATIONAL GUARDS - TO THE MUSEUM
In total, the American experts performed the test under the experimental 21 experimental program. Mikhail Arutyunovich Kardashev in the book "Strategic weapon of the future ”, published in 2014 year and reissued this year, indicates that, according to experts, the cost of testing amounted to approximately 10 million dollars.“ The next day, all materials on the tests were laid on the table of US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, ”writes Michael Kardashev. - The tests were planned to be used during the upcoming negotiations on strategic offensive weapons as a weighty argument for imposing restrictions on Soviet mobile missile systems. The test participants were awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (Medal for Outstanding Merit. - B.SH.) ”.
As for the C-5A aircraft that took part in the tests, it is currently on display at the Museum of Command aviation transportation located at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. The aircraft, which at that time belonged to the Tennessee National Guard and was based at the Memphis Air Force Base, was transferred to the museum on October 20, 2013. It is noteworthy that retired pilot Rodney Moore, who took part in the test with the release of the ICBM "Minuteman" IA in 1974 as a ship commander, wished to join the crew of his aircraft during his last flight, but the command did not allow him.
In general, the 1974 tests of the year confirmed the technical and practical feasibility as well as the safety of launching the ICBM with the launch weight 31,8 t from the C-5A military transport aircraft using its parachute landing through the rear cargo hatch. As a result, a real opportunity arose, after carrying out a set of relevant measures in a relatively short time, to create and adopt a strategic missile system with an intercontinental air-launched ballistic missile in which it was possible to promptly use the available serial military transport aircraft (as carriers) and intercontinental ballistic missiles (as a combat weapon). This made it possible to significantly reduce the financial costs and technical risks that would have occurred if a new specialized aircraft carrier was developed for such a complex. However, since the tests of air-launched ballistic missiles were prohibited by the SALT-2 and START-1 treaties, this project was not further developed and lay "on the shelf". True, not for long.
The second time the Americans tried to deploy the MiniMB family “Minuteman” on an airplane already in the 1980s. This time, as part of a study on the possibility of increasing the survival rate of the United States Air Force intercontinental ballistic missiles “Minuteman” III, Boeing experts proposed a variant of a strategic air-based missile system, which should include an unmanned aerial vehicle (ICBM) and an ICBM type "Minuteman" III (combat means). The project, promulgated in 1980, received the code name Cruise Ballistic Missile, which can be translated from English as "Patrolling a ballistic missile."
Briefly, the essence of Boeing's proposal was as follows. A reusable jet unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with one ICBM on board will be at the land airfield in standby readiness for take-off, which it will perform on command based on a missile attack signal received from the national missile attack warning system. After entering a given area, such a UAV with an ICBM could patrol in the air at an altitude of about 7 km for up to 12 hours - waiting for a command to launch a missile or return to its home airfield. Boeing experts saw the main advantage of such a complex as its almost complete invulnerability from enemy nuclear weapons. It was proposed to deploy a group of up to 250 such "drones» with ICBMs that would have a subsonic flight speed and could land on the airfield, refuel and then take off to continue patrolling.
“If we proceed from the definitions of the terms given in the annex to the START-1 Treaty, the missile in question is not the BRVZ, since this class includes ballistic missiles that are launched from a manned aircraft,” indicates Mikhail Kardashev in the previously mentioned work. “Nevertheless, the technical design and operation of the“ airborne patrolling ICBM ”has a greater similarity to the complex with BRVZ than with traditional ground-based ICBMs”. At the same time, he particularly emphasizes the serious flaw that the project had and which probably did not allow it to go beyond the “paper” one: “It should be noted that at the beginning of the 1980s there were no systems providing take-off and landing on the take-off landing strip of an airfield of heavy unmanned aerial vehicles. Creating a reliable reusable unmanned aircraft carrier ICBM was an extremely difficult technical task. In the event of a false alarm, the missile warning system would cause a massive takeoff of unmanned carriers with ICBMs equipped with nuclear warheads, which would be associated with the risk of an accident with serious consequences at any stage of the flight (taking off, patrolling in the air, waiting for the crew, landing on the airfield). ”
And in conclusion, we will talk about one more, not very well-known general public episode from the American program to investigate the possibility of creating a strategic missile system based on airborne ICBMs.
The fact is that, even despite the existing ban on the implementation of work in this direction, 7 of October 2005 was carried out by experts from the Defense Development Agency of the United States (DARPA), the United States Air Force and other interested agencies and organizations in the Edwards air base Above the desert test site, a missile launch vehicle test known as Airlaunch or also QuickReach Booster from the C-17 Military Transport Plane III.
The aircraft with a tail number 55139 was assigned to the US Air Force Reserve and was based at the air base in March, California. The rocket model was reset from a height of 6 thousand feet (approx. 1829 m), and the C-12 “Huron” was used as an escort plane. The layout length was 65 feet (approx. 19,8 m), and the weight - 50 thousand pounds (approx. 22,67 t), which accounted for two thirds of the calculated mass of the launch vehicle.
The layout was hollow and filled with water. Unlike the test with the “Minuteman” IA in 1974, this time the platform was not used - the rocket was ejected from the cargo compartment using one exhaust parachute and a system of rollers and guides mounted on the cabin floor. Moreover, the landing of the missile was carried out "nose back", that is, to the aircraft.
According to the published information, this test was carried out under the FSLV (Falcon Small Launch Vehicle) program, jointly implemented by DARPA and the US Air Force and aimed at developing a system for launching cargo up to 1000 lbs (about 453,6 kg) into low near-earth orbit. However, in whose interests the Americans actually conducted such an experiment - either the military to use an air-launched ICBM, or civilians to use a non-military launch vehicle in this way - is not entirely clear. In fact, the launch vehicle is the same ballistic missile, which, after completion, can also be used for completely non-peaceful purposes. Officially, in a press release, it was claimed at all that the “new capabilities of the C-17 aircraft” were studied in this way.
The persistence of the Pentagon in this matter is still alarming. In addition, 14 in May 2013 was conducted by experts from the United States Missile Defense Agency and the United States Air Force, as well as Lockheed Martin, with the participation of specialists from US Army and Orbital Technologies and Dynetics, conducted another similar test. This time, a prototype of a ballistic missile, the eMRBM air launch target (extended medium-range ballistic missile), which the Americans were landing from the cargo compartment of the C-17 military transport aircraft at an altitude of 25 thousand feet (7620 m) at the Yuma test site. decided to use for better and more effective development of the actions of combat crews and test the destruction systems of their global missile defense system.
Subscribe and stay up to date with the latest news and the most important events of the day.