Missile profile: Raytheon AGM-129A “ACM” missile

  • Published
  • By Greg L. Davis
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Convair/General Dynamics/Raytheon AGM-129A Advanced Cruise Missile was an air-launched, high-subsonic-capable missile developed for employment with Air Force manned bomber programs. The ACM was designed to supplement AGM-86B Air-Launched Cruise Missiles already in use and first flew in 1985.

Initial deliveries to Air Force stocks took place by mid-1990. The last of 460 examples was delivered in 1993, marking a relatively short production run for a weapon system of this type. Originally slated for use by both the B-52G/H Stratofortress and B-1B Lancer, the missile would only be fielded with the B-52 fleet at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, and Minot AFB, North Dakota. Each B-52 was capable of carrying six ACMs on two underwing pylons for a total of twelve AGM-129As per aircraft.

Tinker’s role with the AGM-129A came through engine maintenance and sustainment operations. The Williams International F112-WR-100 turbofan has a high thrust-to-weight ratio and produced over 700 pounds of thrust. Organic sustainment operations for the F112 began on July 23, 1991, when a depot maintenance line was activated within the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center. During the missile’s service life there were 552 inputs to the F112 line between 1991 and 2002, according to Tinker history documents.

The ACM was the Air Force’s first missile to incorporate stealth design elements such as angular surfaces, radar-absorbent material, a flush-mounted jet intake and flat exhaust hidden near the tail. These features reduced the radar signature to make the missile hard to detect by enemy radar and therefore hard to defend against by the associated air-defense systems. Forward-swept, switchblade-like wings were deployed from their stowed (carry) position within seconds after release by the B-52. An incredible range of more than 2,000 miles was possible through the use of precision guidance inertial navigation and terrain contour matching systems, a highly efficient engine and associated fuel management system. Each missile was 20 feet, 10 inches long, had a 10-foot wingspan and weighed more than 3,500 pounds. The ACM was equipped with a W80-1 nuclear warhead with a 5 to 150 kiloton yield. During its service life, the AGM-129A was one of two nuclear-capable air-launched missiles in use by the Air Force, but the only one with stealth characteristics. 

The expected service life of 2030 was abruptly cut short for the ACM when funding was removed from the fiscal year 2008 budget to meet reduction of nuclear warhead treaty agreements made with Russia in the previous years.