| Mission: The AGM-129A advanced cruise missile is a
stealth, nuclear-capable cruise missile used exclusively by B-52H
Features: The AGM-129A is a subsonic,
air-launched cruise missile. It is harder to detect, and has greater
range and accuracy than the AGM-86 air-launched cruise missile. The ACM
achieves maximum range through its highly efficient engine,
aerodynamics and fuel loading. B-52H bombers can carry up to six
AGM-129A missiles on each of two external pylons for a total of 12 per
aircraft. When the threat is deep and heavily defended, the AGM-129
delivers the proven effectiveness of a cruise missile enhanced by
stealth technology. Launched in quantities against enemy targets, the
ACM's difficulty to detect, flight characteristics and range result in
high probability that enemy targets will be eliminated.
The AGM-129A's external shape is optimized for low observables
characteristics and includes forward swept wings and control surfaces,
a flush air intake and a flat exhaust. These, combined with
radar-absorbing material and several other features, result in a
missile that is virtually impossible to detect on radar.
The AGM-129A offers improved flexibility in target selection over other
cruise missiles. Missiles are guided using a combination of inertial
navigation and terrain contour matching enhanced with highly accurate
speed updates provided by a laser Doppler velocimeter. These, combined
with small size, low-altitude flight capability and a highly efficient
fuel control system, give the United States a lethal deterrent
capability well into the 21st century.
Background: In 1982 the Air Force began studies for a
cruise missile with stealth characteristics after it became clear that
the AGM-86B would soon be too easy to detect by future air defense
systems. In 1983 General Dynamics was awarded a contract to develop the
new AGM-129A ACM. The first test missile flew in 1985; the first
missiles were delivered to the Air Force in mid-1990.
Plans called for an initial production of approximately 1,500
The end of the Cold War and subsequent budget cuts led the Air Force to
cease production after 460 missiles, with the final delivery in 1993.
Several corporate changes during production resulted in Raytheon
Missile Systems as the final production firm. The ACM is
to remain in service until 2030.