The world's first nuclear air-to-air missile
An unguided air-to-air missile equipped with a nuclear warhead was created in the United States at the very beginning of the Cold War. One such missile could clear the sky from an entire squadron of enemy bombers. Fortunately for all mankind, the missile, designated AIR-2 Genie, has never been used in combat. And on trials, the Americans released the Genie from the bottle only once.
Response to the Soviet bombing threat
In 1949, the USSR conducted the first successful tests of its own nuclear bomb. The bomb tested was more powerful than those that the Americans dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. With the advent of Moscow's nuclear weapons, Washington's concerns about its own security have grown markedly.
Against this background, the world was actively developing the bomber aviation, which in those years and until the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles will remain the main means of delivering nuclear weapons to the target. In the USSR, Tu-4 bombers went into serial production, which were an unlicensed copy of the American Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber. Re-assembled aircraft using Soviet-made components and equipment could reach the continental United States.
In addition, in the late 1940s - early 1950s, the USSR began a program to create the Tu-95 strategic turboprop bomber. The first flight of the Tu-95 bomber took place in 1952.
The United States knew about these programs and adequately assessed the threat posed by the new Soviet bombers.
As a radical response to the bombing threat, it was proposed to use an air-launched missile with a nuclear warhead. This decision seemed justified in every sense. Fighters of the end of World War II and the first post-war vehicles were armed mainly with machine-gun and cannon armament. These weapons were no longer enough to successfully combat a large number of multi-engine bombers.
The salvo firing of unguided aircraft missiles at the formation of bombers did not look the best, and there were still several years left before the development of truly effective guided air-to-air missiles. But even these early missiles were pretty primitive. The first victory in aerial combat using a guided missile was won on September 24, 1958, when a Taiwanese F-86 fighter jet shot down a Chinese MiG-15 with an AIM-9B Sidewinder missile.
What was the American "Genie"
Before the invention of guided air-to-air missiles and the appearance of the first ICBMs, it was necessary to somehow neutralize the bombing threat. To this end, in 1954, the United States began a program aimed at studying the use of air-to-air missiles with a nuclear warhead. For the greatest simplicity and reliability, the rocket was made unguided. Given the high power and radius of the explosion, accuracy was rightly considered unnecessary.
The development of a new rocket began in the same year, and already in 1955, the first rocket prototype was presented for dynamic tests. The rocket was developed by the Douglas company, and the novelty itself received the designation McDonnell Douglas Air-2 Genie (factory index of the manufacturer MB-1). The first missiles entered service in 1957.
The rocket was quite simple and was an unguided aircraft munition, which was propelled by a Thiokol SR49-TC-1 solid-propellant rocket engine, which developed a thrust of 162 kN. The engine power was enough to accelerate the rocket to a speed of Mach 3,3 (about 1100 m / s) in two seconds of operation. After 12 seconds of flight, after all the fuel burned out, an explosion occurred, the maximum missile launch range was estimated at 9,6 km.
The rocket with a diameter of 444,5 mm weighed 372,9 kg. The length of the rocket was 2,95 meters. A nuclear warhead W25 with a capacity of 1,5 kt was installed on the rocket. It was a low-yield nuclear warhead specially designed for the Air-2 Genie missile. The warhead had a combined nuclear charge made of uranium and plutonium and was the first device in the United States to be manufactured using the sealed pit technology, with all the elements placed in a sealed metal case.
The effective radius of destruction of the W25 nuclear warhead was estimated at 300 meters. After launching the rocket, the carrier aircraft had to quickly perform an evasive maneuver so as not to be in the affected area. At the same time, the attacked bomber had practically no chance. The short approach time and high speed did not allow the missile to be hit by the defensive armament of the bomber, and the large explosion radius was guaranteed to disable the enemy aircraft.
"Genie" burst out of the bottle
Although the missile remained in service for a fairly long time, until 1985, the United States conducted the only tests of this type of nuclear weapon. This happened as part of a series of nuclear tests in Nevada, designated "Operation Plumbbob".
In total, from May 28 to October 7, 1957, the US military conducted 29 explosions at the Nevada nuclear test site.
A feature of the tests was a large number of atmospheric explosions, which were carried out using special towers of various heights (from tens to hundreds of meters). In addition to the towers, balloons were used, which raised bombs to a height of several hundred meters. Also, as part of Operation Plumbbob, the only air tests of the AIR-2 Genie rocket took place in stories.
An air-to-air missile with a nuclear warhead was launched from the F-89 all-weather jet fighter-interceptor on July 19, 1957. The explosion of a rocket with a 1,5 kt warhead occurred at an altitude of 5639 meters. After launching the missile, the interceptor pilots had to perform a sharp maneuver away from the epicenter of the explosion.
The Genie trials were pushed through by the US Air Force.
The Air Force Command sought not only to test the new weapon, but also to prove the safety of its use over densely populated areas of the United States. To confirm this theory, five Air Force officers and a photographer were on the ground just below the epicenter of the explosion. All of them were in regular field uniforms and had no protective equipment.
The photographer captured them standing with the sign Ground Zero Population 5 (epicenter of the explosion, population 5). In this regard, the tests can be considered quite successful. They did demonstrate that there were no serious health consequences for the civilian population on the ground. All participants in the experiment survived this explosion for decades, the last of the participating officers passed away in 2014.
The fate of the project
Air-to-air nuclear missiles remained in service with the US Air Force until the mid-1980s. At the same time, the production of AIR-2 Genie missiles ended in 1962. In total, more than three thousand copies of this rocket were released (excluding training and test prototypes).
In the United States, the missile was finally removed from service in 1985, a year earlier it happened in Canada. Canada turned out to be Jinn's only export customer.
Missiles with nuclear warheads were received for arming the CF-101 fighter-interceptors back in 1963. Despite being in the arsenal of the Canadian Air Force, the missiles all this time were the property of the United States and were in storage bases under the supervision of the American military.
At the same time, the missiles lost their importance already with the advent of ICBMs.
After that, there was no need to be afraid of an armada of Soviet bombers that would drop hydrogen bombs on American cities. The concept of mutual assured destruction implemented by Moscow and Washington using a huge number of intercontinental ballistic missiles made Jinn with nuclear warheads a vestige of the beginning of the Cold War.
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