USAF Missiles Build
This article covers the build of several United States Air Force (USAF) model collections to use in the ASM model display at the USAF 75th Anniversary Ball on October 14, 2022 at Kirtland Air Force Base and also at any future ASM displays. We have had lots of aircraft available for our past three AF Ball displays, but we have not had any missiles. Therefore, I wanted to build some for the 2022 event. The build eventually became three separate projects, which are discussed below. The three projects were: 1) USAF intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBM) and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM); 2) USAF ground and air-launched cruise missiles (GLCM/ALCM); and 3) USAF surface to air missiles (SAM) models. Eventually these projects would include 14 total models. This article will cover the sources of the models, their builds and modifications as required, paint schemes, decaling, and finally provide some short histories of the missile types built for the projects.
The first project was to build USAF IRBMs and ICBM models. To source all the desired missiles took multiple kits (see pictures). Luckily, Atlantis has recently reissued the “U.S. Space Missiles” kit, which has roots that go way back to the Monogram “United States Missile Arsenal” kit originally produced in 1958. It was morphed with more updated and different missiles as “U.S. Space Missiles” in the early 1970s, and released again as part of their “Heritage Edition” series of kits. That Atlantis kit, in 1/128 scale (more on that later), would provide the majority of the USAF IRBMs and ICBMs that I needed. I used five missiles from the kit: the PGM-17 Thor, PGM-19 Jupiter, SM-65 Atlas, LGM-30F Minuteman II, and LGM‑25C Titan II. The Minuteman and Titan were added in the 1970s version of the kit. Being produced so early, this kit did not have an LGM‑118 Peacemaker or LGM-30G Minuteman III included. To source those, I raided my unbuilt Monogram “U.S. and U.S.S.R. Strategic Missiles” kit. I am not sure of its production timeline—the instruction sheet indicates a copyright of 1984. It was originally titled “USA/USSR Missile Set” and then retitled “U.S. and U.S.S.R. Missile Display.” This kit did have the Minuteman III and the Peacekeeper; however, these are both in 1/144 scale but they would work. I was familiar with this kit, as I had built one for the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History (formerly the National Atomic Museum) back in 2007 for their “Missiles of October” display on the Cuban Missile Crisis (see pictures). Of note, only the Minuteman III is still operational.
The second project was to build USAF cruise missiles. The “U.S. Space Missiles” kit provided an AGM-28 Hound Dog missile in 1/128 scale that was carried by the B-52. The Hound Dog was added in the 1970s version of the kit. Brian Peck had previously given me a Monogram “Model Missile – Paket 2” kit that included the SM-62 Snark and MGM-13 Matador cruise missiles (see picture). That kit went for 49 cents back in 1959. These three models would provide the older “vintage” cruise missiles for the project. The two missiles sold in this “Paket” kit were from the original “United States Missile Arsenal” kit sold as smaller bagged kits. The instructions for these say it has a scale of 3/32 inch equals 1 foot—the Scalemates website states that the larger “Arsenal” kit is in 1/128 scale. The Matador in this kit is really a Mace missile, which evolved from a later version of the Matador. To get the “newer” USAF cruise missiles, I sourced two models from the “U.S. and U.S.S.R. Strategic Missiles” kit: the AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) and the BGM-109G Gryphon. The Gryphon is the USAF ground-launched version of the BGM‑109A Tomahawk missile used by the US Navy. The USAF employed the Gryphon from mobile Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) vehicles between 1983 and 1991. The final new USAF cruise missile for this project came from a Revell 1/144 scale B-52G Stratofortress kit: the AGM-69 Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM). The kit box top features a load of Harpoon missiles, but it has SRAMs as one of the weapons options. So, this project would also have a myriad of scales. Of note, only the ALCM is still operational.
The third and final project was to build USAF SAMs. In this case there was only one, the CIM-10 BOMARC. This model was sourced from the Atlantis “U.S. Space Missiles” kit, and is 1/128 scale. It was originally produced in the “United States Missile Arsenal” kit. BOMARC was operational from 1959 to 1972. Pictures of the kits used are included below.
Model kits used for the three missile projects.
U.S. and U.S.S.R. Strategic Missiles kit previously built for the National Atomic Museum when they were in their Old Town location.
Overall Build Comments
My goal was to represent operational missiles armed with warheads and to modify the individual models as required. That process is detailed in the build sections below. Most of the models consisted of only two or three pieces and generally they fitted really well. The kits come with a plastic base that has holes to mount all the different missiles, so there are mounting “pins” included at the end of the missiles. My plan was to have the missiles all mounted vertically suspended slightly in the air by a clear plastic rod that would be inserted into a wood base plaque. Therefore, all the models needed to have those pins removed and a round hole carved into the bottom either through the rocket nozzle or next to the nozzle on what would be the “back” side from the viewer. Four of the missiles were okay with going through the nozzle itself. I added a compartment bulkhead panel in the lower level within each missile and filled that section with modeling clay in order to securely hold the plastic rod and keep the missile in a vertical position (see picture). The cruise missiles would be similarly suspended but in level in-flight positions. This plan worked well, but it required a lot of measuring and “dry fitting” to determine where all the missiles would sit on the wood bases before I drilled the holes. My plan was to be able to remove all the missiles from the base and store them laying down whenever the models needed to be transported. The holes and clay also allowed me to easily suspend the models on wood shish kebab sticks for painting (see pictures). Information sheets were built for each project that provided data on each of the included missiles and these were attached to the wood bases as the last step. Missile paint schemes and decaling details are provided below after the build description sections.
IRBM and ICBM Builds
The models in the “U.S. Space Missiles” kit were designed back in the late 1950s and represent early testing versions of the Thor and Atlas missiles. What these differences are and how they were fixed to make real operational versions is detailed below as I go through each individual model build. Before and after pictures are included in the article.
Unbuilt IRBM and ICBM missile pieces from “U.S. Space Missiles” and “U.S. and USSR Strategic Missiles” kits
Bulkheads and clay added in lower sections of missiles—Jupiter and Titan are shown. Plastic rod inserted in Jupiter.
This model has an early research and development tapered dummy nose cone shape that was replaced in the operational version by blunt or slightly rounded warheads. The model depicts the early test missiles and the first few operational missiles that had four small fins at the base of the missile—these were subsequently removed. Finally, the kit has two drain pipes next to the rocket nozzle, and the real missile had just one. Scale-wise, the Thor model is way too small. The Thor missile is actually slightly taller than the Jupiter (65 feet versus 60) but the Thor model is significantly shorter than the Jupiter model. The Thor model measures 4.625 inches high and 0.56 inches in diameter. In 1/128 scale that is 49.333 feet, which is way short of the real 65 feet. Roden recently released a “Douglas C-133A Cargomaster and Thor IRBM” kit in 1/144 scale. Unfortunately, I already have a C-133A kit that I plan to build for future ASM displays. If they release the Thor by itself, then l will build that to replace the Thor in this display.
The four fins were removed after the two sides were glued together. A little putty filler was required to smooth that out. The incorrect nose cone was removed at the point where it hit the main body of the missile. A large search was then conducted to find a correct shaped object for the slightly bulged Mark 2 re-entry vehicle (RV) warhead. I ended up using one of the plastic pull-off plugs that seal the top of a creamer bottle (see picture). The very center of the plug had the correct bulge—that was cut to size to fit the diameter of the Thor missile. With the addition of the RV the model scaled out at 48 feet. The last fix was cutting off one of the two drain pipes. The missile was painted with Tamiya TS-26 Pure White (spray can) and later sprayed with Tamiya TS-13 Clear and finally with Tamiya TS-79 Semi-Gloss Clear to give it an in-operation look. The nozzle was painted with Model Master Stainless Steel Buffing Metalizer. Decaling was per the operational version with vertical lettering and horizontal “stars and bars” insignia (further discussed in the Decaling Section below).
Thor shown with 4 fins and test nose cone, before and after removal. New nose cone cut from plastic pull-off plug.
This model correctly depicts the Jupiter’s appearance and is very close to 1/128 scale at 5.44 inches tall and 0.75 inches in diameter, which translates to 58 feet. The real missile is 60 feet tall. The model looks to be too tall and very wide versus the other models in the project, but it is accurate. The strange appearance is based upon its US Navy design parentage (discussed in Histories section). The model was built out-of-the-box with no modifications. The missile was painted similarly as the Thor with decaling per the operational version with both horizontal lettering and “stars and bars.” This was the only USAF missile with the insignia applied this way. See the Decaling section below.
The model is very close to the correct size for 1/128 scale. The kit is 6.75 inches tall without any modifications which translates to 72 feet. The real missile is 75 feet tall plus or minus a few feet depending upon the version. After the modifications detailed below the kit was 7.25 inches tall which translates to 77 feet. The kit depicts an early Atlas A test version with a rounded tip nose cone. This was replaced with a taller more pointed warhead in the operational versions. The model has only the two booster engines—it does not have the third middle sustainer engine or the long drain pipe next to the middle engine. It also has two long external pylons (equipment pods) along the sides that were on the A through C versions. The first operational Atlas was the D version. The D had only one of these long external pylons. The E and F had a slightly different version of this long pylon on one side and a shorter pylon on the other side.
I decided to convert the model into an Atlas E/F version that was as accurate as possible given the extent of the changes required. The first item was to add the missing middle sustainer engine. For this I cut a section from a hollow pen body that matched the diameter of the other two engines and had a slight outward flare at one end (see picture) and glued that in place after the missile had been painted. A suitable drain pipe was made from stretched sprue. The two long external pylons were left as is, close enough for the E/F version. The biggest modification was adding a Mark 4 RV warhead. This required another search for an item that approximately matched the required shape. I ended up using the end of a plastic hose connector, sanded to the correct shape (see picture). Luckily most of the incorrect tip of the Atlas B missile has the correct slope and shape required for the Atlas E/F with the Mark 4 RV attached and could be retained. However, the kit has raised vertical “ridges” in this top section that had to be sanded smooth. The new RV section was glued on as the last step of this build. The missile was painted with Tamiya TS-30 Silver Leaf (spray can). The lower “skirt booster” section was taped-off and sprayed with Model Master Aluminum Plate Buffing Metalizer paint. The new RV section was painted Testors Flat White. The nozzles were painted with Model Master Stainless Steel Buffing Metalizer. Decaling was per the operational version with vertical lettering and horizontal “stars and bars. I was able to use the kit’s decals for the “stars and bars.”
Atlas shown with donor pen and plastic hose connector, before and after cuts. Completed Thor, Jupiter, and Atlas missiles.
Minuteman II and III ICBMs:
Both of these models have the correct shape for operational missiles and needed no modifications. They are both very close to scale. The Minuteman II kit is 5.5 inches tall which translates to 58.66 feet in 1/128 scale. The real missile is 57.6 feet tall. The Minuteman III kit is 5 inches tall which translates to 60 feet in 1/144 scale. The real missile is 59.9 feet tall. The two Minuteman were painted in white the same as the Jupiter and Thor. Two bands on the Minuteman II were taped-off and sprayed with Model Master RLM 70 Schwarzgrun—that was the best match. The four bands on the Minuteman III were taped-off and sprayed with TS-30 Silver Leaf (2 bands) and Testors Flat Black (2 bands). The nozzles were painted with Model Master Stainless Steel Buffing Metalizer. Decaling was per the late operational version with vertical lettering on the Minuteman II. The Minuteman III was the only missile that had a vertical “USAF” (not spelled-out) on its lower section. Both had horizontal “stars and bars.” I was able to use the kit’s decal for the small black stripe near the top of the missile. Both were finished off with a spray of TS-79 Semi-Gloss Clear for a little weathering.
Titan II and Peacekeeper ICBMs:
These models were also accurate and needed no modifications. They are also both very close to scale. The Titan II kit is 9.625 inches tall which translates to 102.66 feet in 1/128 scale. The real missile is 103 feet tall. The Peacekeeper kit is 5.875 inches tall which translates to 70.5 feet in 1/144 scale. The real missile is 72 feet tall. The Titan missile has see-through gaps in the missile between the first and second stages. This model has these depicted as “indentations” that should probably be painted black. The Titan was painted with TS-30 Silver Leaf and the nose cone was taped off and sprayed with Testors Flat Black. The nozzles were painted with Model Master Stainless Steel Buffing Metalizer with a thin white band at the top of each nozzle. The Peacekeeper was sprayed with Testors Flat Black. The lower silver band was taped off and sprayed with TS-30 Silver Leaf and the nose cone was sprayed with Model Master Aluminum Plate Buffing Metalizer. The nose cone has two shades of metal, so one level was buffed and the other was not, which gave me two subtle shades. The nozzles were painted with Model Master Stainless Steel Buffing Metalizer. Titan decaling was per the operational version with vertical lettering and horizontal “stars and bars.” This was one of the few instances where I could use the kit’s decals. The Peacekeeper had no markings.
Missiles after white, silver, and black coats applied, and missile sections painted. Completed Titan, Peacekeeper, Minuteman II and III. Which base to use—one or two rows? Completed USAF IRBM and ICBM Missiles project with missiles and information sheet added to wood base.
Cruise Missile Builds
Mace, Snark, and Hound Dog:
As stated previously, the Matador missile in the kit is actually a very late version of that missile that was renamed as the Mace. It was likely still called the Matador-B when the kit came out in 1958. The Matador had a pointed nose whereas the Mace was slightly longer and had a rounded nose, as is depicted by the model in the kit. Since it was a Mace, an operational USAF cruise missile, I kept it as such. The Mace, Snark, and Hound Dog were all built out-of-the-box. Holes were carved in the bottom of the fuselage in each model and bulkheads and clay added as done with the ICBM/IRBMs. This was a little tricky as the Mace and Snark have inlets underneath the fuselage. The Snark was painted with AK RC221 Air Defense Command (ADC) Gray FS16473. The Mace was painted with TS-30 Silver Leaf (spray can). The Hound Dog was painted with TS-26 Pure White (spray can). The engine inlet and nozzle on the Hound Dog were both just blunt ends with a small point sticking out and required some painting to replicate the depth that was not present. All three missiles were finished off with a spray of TS-79 Semi-Gloss Clear. Decaling of these three missiles was per the operational versions with horizontal lettering and “stars and bars” on the fuselage and wings. I did use the “stars and bars” from the kit for the Hound Dog, but its other markings were for an earlier test version of the missile. The Hound Dog also needed horizontal red stripes (from a Red Stripes decal sheet) down the sides of the fuselage with gaps for the insignia. It also received a red warning stripe around the engine, as did the Mace, too. The Snark received three red warning stripes around its lower rear fuselage. The Snark kit did have a pitot tube at the tip of its nose, which was broken off and found in the kit bag. I did not reglue that—most pictures of the operational missiles did not show the pitot installed.
Unbuilt Mace, Snark and Hound Dog cruise missile pieces from “Missile-Paket” and “U.S. Space Missiles” kits, and models under construction.
Completed Mace, Snark, and Hound Dog models.
SRAM, ALCM and GLCM:
The ALCM and GLCM were both built out-of-the-box. The GLCM model has the rocket booster cannister attached—this is jettisoned shortly after launch. I left that in place. The SRAM model sourced from the B-52G kit was molded to include the pylon that mounted it to the large rack under the B-52’s wing. Most of this pylon needed to be sanded down, which was a real pain. A small portion had to be retained to represent the ridge that runs along the top of the SRAM. These three missiles range from 15 to 20 feet long, but the models are so small in 1/144 scale that I needed to use a smaller diameter plastic rod, and these were glued to the bottom of the models instead of carving a hole. The ALCM and GLCM models had a wide tab included at the bottom of each missile that is supposed to fit into the kit’s plastic base. These were reduced in size and used as the mounting location for my plastic rods. The SRAM was painted with TS-26 Pure White and received a dark red nose cone. The ALCM was painted overall with Model Master FS 36375 Light Ghost Gray. The Gryphon was painted with Model Master FS 36320 Dark Ghost Gray on its upper surfaces and Light Ghost Gray on its undersurfaces. The ALCM used the kit’s very small “U.S. Air Force” decals but the “stars and bars” were out of register and not usable, and I had to use two from the decal sheet from a previously built Revell 1/144 B-52H kit. The SRAM and Gryphon had no markings at all.
Unbuilt ALCM and Gryphon cruise missile pieces from “USSR Strategic Missiles” kit, and completed models.
Unbuilt SRAM cruise missile pieces from B-52G kit, and completed model.
Completed USAF Cruise Missiles project with base and information sheet.
The CIM-10 BOMARC model was accurate and built out-of-the-box. It also had an interior bulkhead and clay installed. A smaller diameter plastic rod was used due to the BOMARC’s smaller rocket nozzle size in order to have it stand vertically. The missile was painted with Model Master FS36495 Light Gray with a TS-26 Pure White nose cone. The two ramjets were taped-off and the lower sections were painted with Model Master Aluminum Plate Buffing Metalizer. The model was finished with final coats of TS-13 Clear and then TS-79 Semi-Gloss Clear with that lower end of the ramjets taped off. The three nozzles were painted with Model Master Stainless Steel Buffing Metalizer. A sharp pencil was used to provide some depth in the front end of the two ramjet engines, which have just a small indentation around each of the cones. Decaling was per the operational version with horizontal lettering and “stars and bars” on the fuselage and wings. I was able to use the kit’s decals for the fuselage “stars and bars” but I had to use larger versions of these and “USAF” lettering from the Micro Scale and Super Scale sheets for the wings and the “U.S. Air Force” on the fuselage sides.
Unbuilt BOMARC SAM pieces from “U.S. Space Missiles “kit, completed model., and completed USAF SAM project with base and information sheet.
Determining the correct paint schemes for the missiles was probably the most difficult task of this project. Schemes changed during the operational lifetime of the missiles. A lot of on-line pictures show developmental test missile launches with non-operational color schemes such as large white bands with sectioned black bands. A lot of these also depict missiles in museums or outside static displays that have been repainted, usually all white with “U.S. Air Force” and “stars and bars” insignia markings in the case of the ICBMs and IRBMs. The Thor and Jupiter missiles were all white and therefore not a problem to track down. Pictures of the missiles in silos and on display at the National Museum of the USAF and the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History (here in Albuquerque) were fairly good sources. The Albuquerque pictures were good for missile colors but a bit suspect as these missiles were mostly laid out horizontally in stage pieces awaiting restoral and have few markings. The cruise missiles in museums and static displays are mostly painted in glossy light gray, white, or bare metal and required more sleuthing to track down the operational colors. On-line colored pictures from the 1950s and 1960s were the best source for these. I test-painted a lot of gray colors to try to find the best match for the different missiles. After a lot of searching, I believe I had good operational schemes for the time period that I was depicting for each missile. The paint colors used are detailed in each missile build. Looking back at my build for the Atomic Museum in 2007, I think that I painted the Titan II and Polaris A-3 missiles in test schemes (decals from the kit) instead of operational schemes. The rest of the U.S. missiles are accurate.
Some of the kit decals were usable for the missiles in the timeframe that I built but most were not. I mostly used various sizes of the “U.S. Air Force” and “USAF” markings from the Super Scale 72-250 USAF Black decal sheet; and “stars and bars” from the Micro Scale 72-83 Current US Air Force Insignia decal sheet. Luckily the lettering and “stars and bars” sizes on these two sheets matched well with the 1/128 and 1/144 scale models. I also had to use a few from the decal sheet from a previously-built Revell 1/144 scale B-52H Stratofortress kit. The Jupiter had the “U.S. Air Force” painted in a horizontal manner up its sides (what would be readable if it was laying on its side as you looked at it). The Thor and all the other ICBMs (except the Minuteman III) had this wording painted with each letter oriented in a readable manner if the missile was standing vertically. The U and the S in these vertical wording insignia did not have a period after the letter. This necessitated cutting out each individual letter from the sheet before they could be applied onto the model. I calculated that I cut out and applied 80 total letters, which was pretty time consuming. Other than the Jupiter, all these missiles had horizontal “star and bars” insignia (bars level with the horizon when it was standing vertically). The Jupiter had this insignia in line with the wording. The cruise missiles and BOMARC SAM could have proper-sized decals applied without making any cuts.
Efficient way to place individual letter decals. Missiles drying after final Semi-Gloss coat. Models on wood sticks that were stuck into blocks of modeling clay. A tall cardboard box was placed over the models after spraying to prevent dust collection.
These models are long in the tooth but they are mostly accurate and with a little work can be modified into operational versions where required. It would be nice if an after-market company would produce a “modern missile markings” decal sheet to go with the U.S Space Missiles kit. I learned a lot about these missiles that I either did not know or had forgotten.
The three model projects filled the need for missile models that could be included in ASM’s displays and they were very well-received by the attendees at the Air Force 75th Anniversary Ball who had served in the missile field during their careers. They inspired a long conversation with the 377th Air Base Wing Commander on our entire display and the hobby of scale modeling, and an invite to come back in 2023. Please see my article on that event that was previously published on the ASM Website. I hope to build the remaining U.S. Army and U.S. Navy missiles from the two kits into separate displays that will be a player at future Folds of Honor events. Pictures below show the original USAF Missileman Badge (“Pocket Rocket”) and the later-issued Missile Badge with Operations Designator (wreath added) indicating service on a missile combat crew.
Missile models in traveling mode. All three USAF Missile projects as displayed at the 2022 Air Force 75th Anniversary Ball.
USAF Missileman Badges.
Short histories of the missiles built for the three USAF Missiles project are listed below by their project type and operational dates. Multiple on-line sources were used, mostly from Wikipedia.
Douglas PGM-17 Thor IRBM was the first operational USAF ballistic missile. It had a liquid propelled Rocketdyne engine, with a height of 65 feet and diameter of 8 feet. Thor had a range of 2,300 miles and was operational from 1954-1963. It carried the W49 (1.44 megaton) warhead. Thor was deployed to and operated at Royal Air Force at sites in the United Kingdom. Thor was much more deployable than the Jupiter and could be transported in the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II and C-133 Cargomaster aircraft. Thor would later have a stellar career as a NASA booster rocket for multiple space programs.
Chrysler PGM-19 Jupiter IRBM was developed by the US Army Redstone Arsenal and the US Navy and was to be capable of being launched from a submarine. Navy involvement resulted in the final shape of the missile. The Navy withdrew from the Jupiter project and instead began development of the Polaris missile. Both the Jupiter and Thor IRBMs were produced after the launch of Sputnik by the USSR. Jupiter was later transferred from the US Army over to the USAF. Jupiter had a liquid propelled Rocketdyne engine, with a height of 60 feet and diameter of 8.75 feet. Jupiter had a range of 1,700 miles and was operational from 1956-1961. It carried the W38 (3.75 megaton) or W49 warhead. It used a “flower petal shelter” of wedge-shaped panels and was not easily transportable, resulting in its early phase-out in favor of the Thor. Jupiter was based at sites in Italy and Turkey.
Convair/General Dynamics SM-65 Atlas ICBM was the first operational ICBM developed by the USAF. It had two liquid-prolled Rocketdyne booster engines in a “skirt stage” and one central sustainer engine. Atlas had a height of 75 feet and diameter of 16 feet. Atlas was originally designated as the XB-65 experimental bomber. In 1955 it was redesignated SM-65 (“Strategic Missile 65”) and in 1962 became CGM-16. The A, B and C versions were developmental rockets, with the D, E and F being operational versions. The Atlas D carried the W49 warhead in the Mk 2 and 3 RV and the Atlas E and F carried the W38 warhead in the Mk 4 RV. Atlas had a range of 9,000 miles and was operational from 1959-1965. The Atlas booster was used by NASA for the four Mercury-Atlas manned flights during the Project Mercury space program.
Martin LGM-25C Titan ICBM program was begun as a back-up in case there were delays with the SRM‑65 Atlas missile. SM-68A/HGM-25A Titan I was the USAF’s first multi-stage ICBM and had liquid-propelled Aerojet engines. It was originally designated as the B-68 bomber, which was changed to the SM-68 Titan and then later to HGM-25A. Titan I had a Mk 4 re-entry vehicle containing a W38 warhead and was deployed in five western states. Titan had a height of 103 feet and diameter of 10 feet. It was in service from 1959 to 1962, being replaced by the improved LGM-25C Titan II. The Titan’s major improvement over Atlas was being stored vertically in underground silos. The Titan II used hypergolic propellants that could be stored in the missile, unlike the Titan I that had to be fueled immediately before launch. The Titan II doubled the load of the Titan I and carried six W53 warheads, and had a range of 10,000 miles. It was in service from 1962 to 1987 at locations in four states, being phased-out when the Minuteman came on board. Titan I boosters were all scrapped, except for museum missiles. The Titan II booster was used by NASA for ten Gemini-Titan manned flights during the Project Gemini space program and also multiple reconnaissance satellites and interplanetary probes throughout the solar system. “LGM” stands for silo-launched (L), ground targets (G), and guided missile (M). 108 Titan II ICBMs were produced.
Boeing LGM-30 Minuteman ICBM was the USAF’s first solid-propelled ICBM and had three stages. The LGM‑30A and B Minuteman I were in service from 1962 to 1969 at one USAF base, carried one W59 warhead, and had a range of 5,500 miles. The LGM-30F Minuteman II was in service from 1965 to 1994 at four USAF bases, carried one W56 warhead, was 57.6 feet tall, and had a range of 6,300 miles. The final and current LGM-30G Minuteman III version entered service in 1970, can carry up to three Mk 12 multiple independently-targetable RVs (MIRV) with W62, W78, or W87 warheads, is 59.9 feet tall, and has a range of 8,700 miles. Under the START Treaty the Minuteman III carries only one warhead. There are currently 450 Minuteman IIIs operational at three USAF bases.
Boeing LMG-118 Peacekeeper ICBM was a three-stage solid-propelled ICBM deployed by the U.S. from 1985 to 2005. It was originally known as the “MX” for Missile, Experimental. The missile was MIRV-capable and could carry up to twelve Mark 21 RVs (normally carried ten) each armed with a 300-kiloton W87 warhead, plus decoys. It was 72 feet tall and had a range of 6,000 miles. Initial plans called for building and deploying 100 Peacekeepers, but budgetary concerns eliminated the final procurement and only 50 entered service. It was based in re-fitted Minuteman silos at Francis E. Warren AFB in Wyoming. Disarmament treaties signed after the Peacekeeper’s development led to its withdrawal from service in 2005. The W87 warheads were re-used on Minuteman IIIs.
USAF IRBMs and ICBMs: Thor in launch position, typical site, and deploying in C 124 and C-133 aircraft; Jupiter in open flower petal shelter and typical emplacement; Atlas and Atlas Silo; Titan II and Titan Complex; Minuteman II and III and missile silo (launch control facility is remote from silo); and Peacekeeper.
Northrup SM-62 Snark was the first USAF cruise missile and intercontinental missile, with a range of 6,300 miles. It was as big as a fighter jet with a length of 67 feet and wingspan of 42 feet. It was powered by a J57 turbojet engine and was launch-assisted by two solid rocket engines (RATO) that fell off after launch. Snark was a tail-less design that used elevons on its wings as its primary flight control surfaces, and it flew with an unusual nose-high angle during level flight. Snark used a stellar navigation system, carried a W39 nuclear warhead, and cruised at Mach 0.9 at 150,000 feet. Snark had a very turbulent development period and was operational only from 1959-1961. It was based at two sites in the U.S.
Martin MGM-13 (TM-76) Mace was a mobile ground-launched missile that was an upgraded version of the TM-61 Matador. The Mace A could be launched from mobile trailers (like in the classic 1/32 scale Renwal/Revell “Teracruzer with Mace Missile” kit). The Mace B was launched from hardened “coffin” shelter/bunkers. Mace was powered by a J33 turbojet engine and was launch-assisted by a single solid rocket booster (RATO). Mace had a length of 44.5 feet and wingspan of 23 feet, and a range of 1,400 miles (Mace B). It carried the W28 nuclear warhead. It was operational at USAF bases in Europe and the Pacific from 1959-1969, and was replaced by the Pershing missile.
North American Aviation AGM-28 Hound Dog was a supersonic stand-off air-launched cruise missile powered by a J52 turbojet engine mounted in a pod below the missile. It was primarily designed to be capable of attacking Soviet ground-based air defense sites prior to a potential air attack by the B-52 Stratofortress. Hound Dog was first given the designation B-77, then redesignated GAM-77, and finally AGM-28. It used the technology and design features of the SM-64/G-38 Navajo missile that did not go into production. Hound Dog had a length of 42.5 feet and wingspan of only 12 feet. It was supposed to be a temporary standoff missile for the B-52 until the GAM-87 Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile became available. Instead, Skybolt was canceled and the Hound Dog stayed in service for 15 years from 1960 to 1975. Two Hound Dogs were carried by the B-52—one on each side mounted on pylons below the wings. The mounting pylon included an astrotracker (star tracker) in its front tip. The Hound Dog’s engines could be used to assist the B-52 in its takeoff, and its fuel tanks were then refueled from the B‑52’s tanks. It had a top speed of Mach 2.1, a range of 785 miles, and carried a W28 nuclear warhead. About 700 AGM-28s were built.
Boeing AGM-69 Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM) was designed to replace the AGM-28 Hound Dog standoff missile and have the same basic role of hitting SAM sites. SRAM was a smaller missile and therefore more could be carried either internally on rotary launchers or externally on pylons by the B‑52 (max of 20), FB-111 (max of 6), and B-1 (24 max, all internal). It had a top speed of Mach 3, a range of 110 miles, and carried a W69 nuclear warhead.. SRAM had a length of 15 feet and was powered by a solid-fueled SR75 rocket motor. It was in-service from 1972 to 1993. About 1,500 SRAMs were built.
Boeing AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) was developed to increase the effectiveness and survivability of the B-52H. The concept started as a decoy and was modified to attack radar sites and air bases. The AGM-86 is a long-range subsonic missile powered by an F107 turbofan engine. It has a length of 20.75 feet. The missile deploys its folded wings, tail surfaces and engine inlet after launch. The AGM‑86B carries a W80 nuclear warhead. The AGM-86C and D carry high explosive conventional warheads. AGM-86B uses a terrain contour-matching guidance system to fly to its assigned target. The AGM‑86B/C uses GPS coupled with an inertial navigation system. It has a range of approximately 1,500 miles and a max speed of 550 mph (AGM-86B). ALCM can be carried internally or externally by the B‑52 (max of 20). AGM-86s were to reach their end of service by 2020, but the USAF announced plans to extend the useful life of the missiles until at least 2030. A stealthy version of the ALCM, the AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile (ACM), was developed and 460 missiles were deployed.
General Dynamics BGM-109G Gryphon was a USAF ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) developed as a counter to the mobile medium range ballistic missiles (MRBM) and IRBM nuclear missiles (SS-20 Saber) deployed by the Soviet Union in Eastern Bloc European countries. GLCM was a ground-launched variant of the BQM-109 Tomahawk missile in use by the U.S. Navy. Gryphon had a length of 18.2 feet and a wingspan of 8.8 feet, a max speed of 550 mph, and a range of 1,730 miles. It was powered by a F107 turbofan engine and carried a W84 nuclear warhead. It used terrain contour matching guidance, and like the ALCM the Gryphon deployed its wings, tail fins, and engine inlet at the end of the boost phase. Gryphon was deployed in mobile transporter erector launchers (TEL) that could carry four missiles each. It was based at six locations in Europe. Flights of four TELs (16 total missiles) and two Launch Control Vehicles would deploy to classified pre-surveyed locations during periods of heightened tensions. It was operational from 1983 to 1991. The introduction of the Gryphon and Pershing II brought the Soviets to negotiations with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the removal of these types of weapons. This led to the Gryphon being removed from Europe and their inactivation in 1991.
USAF Cruise Missiles: Snark, Mace, Hound Dog, SRAM, ALCM, and Gryphon showing missiles in displays, being launched, in-flight, and carried on aircraft. GLCM launch is from a Transporter Erector Launch (TEL) vehicle.
Boeing CIM-10 BOMARC was a supersonic ramjet powered long-range surface to air missile (SAM) developed by the USAF during the Cold War for air defense of North America. The name BOMARC is a combination of Boeing and Michigan Aeronautical Research Center. It was known initially as the F-99 pilotless interceptor and then the IM-99 Weapon System prior to 1962. It was the first operational long-range SAM, the first operational pulse doppler aviation radar, and was the only SAM deployed by the USAF. BOMARC was stored horizontally in a semi-hardened “coffin” launcher shelter with a movable roof. The launcher rail was erected to a vertical position and the missile launched vertically using a rocket booster to get to high altitude, and then tipped over into a horizontal Mach 2.5 cruise profile powered by two ramjet engines. It was controlled from the ground for most of its flight but used an onboard active radar homing seeker for terminal guidance. It carried a conventional or W40 nuclear warhead, and had a length of 45 feet and wingspan of 28 feet. The BOMARC-A had a liquid-fueled booster that was replaced with a solid-fueled booster in the B version. The BOMARC-B had a range of 440+ miles, a max speed of Mach 2.5+ and a ceiling of 100,000 feet. It was operational from 1959 to 1972. Canada also used the BOMARC. In June 1959, the USAF authorized 16 BOMARC sites with 56 missiles each; however, in March 1960, HQ USAF cut deployment to eight sites in the United States and two in Canada. Some missiles were modified for use as high altitude supersonic target drones.
USAF SAM: CIM-10 BOMARC in launch position, BOMARC battery, and launching.
Note: There was an article titled “U.S. Space Missiles” by Jim Griffith and Joe Suszynski published in the IPMS/United States Branch Quarterly Magazine Volume 22, Number 2, Winter 1986, that provides detailed information on how to correct the missile models included in that kit. I purposely did not read that article in order to have a new fresh look at the models, and report on how I chose to correct and modify them. Please let me know if you would like a copy of that article.