OMAHA (AP) — The Strategic Air Command is readying crews for the first of its small but potent air-launched strategic missiles — the Hound Dog, scheduled to be operational in May.
In the developmental stage is the Sky Bolt, faster with a longer reach.
Both are bomber-borne and as such may seem a step back from bigger, self-sufficient intercontinental ballistic missiles like Atlas, Titan and Minuteman.
As far as we know, the Russians have nothing like them.
The Hound Dog, says Gen. Thomas S. Power, SAC commander, "will vastly increase the utility and flexibility of the manned bomber and permit a variety of new tactics." Air-launched missiles, he predicts, will greatly extend the useful life of the current B52.
"I consider the B52 and Hound Dog combination the first step in the marriage of manned bomber and missile," says Power. "The next step will be the use of the manned aircraft as an air borne and virtually invulnerable platform for air-launched ballistic missiles."
The Sky Bolt ,will be an air-launched ballistic missile.
"Modernization of the bomber force is by no means a stopgap measure because, in the foreseeable future, there will always be need for manned weapon systems." Power emphasizes.
The Hound Dog will be carried aloft suspended from a pylon containing monitoring and launching equipment and slung beneath the wing of a B52. Once launched, the missile's own guidance system will direct it toward its target.
The Hound Dog — officially the GAM77 — is 42.5 feet long. 5 feet thick. Stubby wings With a span of only 10 feet extend from the harpoon-shaped body. One Hound Dog costs about one-third of a million dollars, one-sixth as much as an Atlas.
Despite its size, the nuclear-armed Hound Dog is in the same general class with ICBMs and the submarine-launched Polaris. All are strategic weapons for use against major enemy targets.
"Its accuracy." says Power, "is measured in feet rather than the normal conception of missiles which is generally miles."
SAC says the Hound Dog warheads can't explode until they are deliberately armed during a mission.
Here's what SAC says two Hound Dogs, one slung under each wing like side-arms, can do for a B52 jet bomber:
Triple striking ability. The bomber may launch each missile at a different target and fly on to hit a third. A single bomber on one mission can attack targets thousands of miles apart.
Hound Dogs can run interference for the bomber, knocking out enemy radar or defenses in its path.
The missile's inertial guidance system can fly the mother plane. Presently bomber crews navigate by radar, which can be detected, and by the stars. Following the missile's guidance, they can approach a target without radar tipping their hand.
Hound Dog's jet engines can give the bomber a boost on take-off. A full load of gas in wing tanks which have been added to B52s means an additional 25,000 pounds of weight. Thus extra push getting the bomber airborne is a valuable asset.
The Hound Dog's speed has been unofficially reported to be 1,100 to 1,200 miles an hour and its range 500 to 600 miles.
The Sky Bolt will be a two-stage, solid propellant ballistic missile. Its launching platform will be a high-flying bomber.
The Sky Bolt's range, according to published reports, will be 1,000 to 1,500 miles.
If the air-launched missile has so many advantages why aren't the Russians using them?
"If you are pre-emptive — if you throw the first punch — you don't need this stuff," explains Maj. James D. Kleine. 37, Philadelphia. SAC's project officer for the Hound Dog. Ho is stationed at SAC headquarters near Omaha.
"But if you don't attack first, your reaction time is going to be so decreased you can't get a mass of bombers into the air," he adds. "It you can't launch as many bombers obviously it's an advantage to increase the punch of those you may be able to send on their way."
Development of the Hound Dog began in August 1957, the month the Russians announced the launching of their first ICB.
North American Aviation was the Hound Dog's prime contractor. The first missile already has been accepted but testing is still going on at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
The first unit to be equipped with Hound Dog will be the 4135th Strategic Wing at Eglin.
Tho go-ahead has been given to equip 29 wings with Hound Dogs. The first dozen bases scheduled to get the missile are:
Eglin at Valparaiso, Fla.
Griffiss. Rome. N. Y.
Loring. .Limestone. Me.
Minot, N. D.
Ramey, Puerto Rico
Robins, Warner Robins, Ga.
Seymour-Johnson. Goldsboro. N. C
Wright-Patterson, Dayton. Ohio
Wurtsmith. Oscoda, Mich.