Friday, July 19, 2013

Flashback Friday: AIR-2 Genie

      This week's Flashback Friday looks at the AIR-2 Genie. The AIR-2 was an unguided air-to-air missile deployed by the USAF from 1957-1985. The AIR-2 was armed a W25 nuclear weapon, with a yield of 1.5kT. The AIR-2 had a range of 10.8km and traveled at Mach 3.
      In the mid-1950s a major threat was a Soviet nuclear attack carried out with the Tu-4 (a B-29 clone).  Up to then U.S. fighters had been equipped with either 20mm cannons or 12.7mm machine guns, and unguided rockets like the Mk 4 FFAR. None of these were effective at shooting down aircraft, especially not high speed bombers, and true air-to-air missiles were still in their infancy. Thus, a solution was found in the AIR-2, as it was nuclear armed it could be fired into a bomber stream, and when detonated could bring a number of bombers in one detonation. The AIR-2 was only live-fired once, during the Plumbbob John nuclear test over Yucca Flats, at an altitude of 4.5km. The warhead had a yield of 1.7 kilotons.
     Video of the test can be seen from 6:00 to 6:30.
     During the test 5 USAF officers stood underneath the detonation to prove the Genie was safe for use over populated areas. Gamma and neutron radiation doses were reported as negligible.
      In the end the Genie was maintained through the 80s, and would have been at the frontline of any Soviet air attack against North America. It's effectiveness is debatable against bombers like the Tu-160 or Tu-22M, but it would have been highly effective against the Tu-95.

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