Thursday, May 21, 2009

McGuire AFB BOMARC Broken Arrow Missile Site

The Bomarc was the only surface-to-air missile ever deployed by the U.S. Air Force. All other U.S. land-based SAMs were and are under the control of the U.S. Army.

In 1946, Boeing started to study surface-to-air guided missiles under the USAAF project MX-606. By 1950, Boeing had launched more than 100 test rockets in various configurations, all under the designator XSAM-A-1 GAPA (Ground-to-Air Pilotless Aircraft). Because these tests were very promising, Boeing received a USAF contract in 1949 to develop a pilotless interceptor (a term then used by the USAF for air-defense guided missiles) under project MX-1599. The MX-1599 missile was to be a ramjet-powered, nuclear-armed long-range surface-to-air missile to defend the continental USA from high-flying bombers. The Michigan Aerospace Research Center (MARC) was added to the project soon afterwards, and this gave the new missile its name Bomarc (for Boeing and MARC). In 1951, the USAF decided to emphasize its point of view that missiles were nothing else than pilotless aircraft by assigning aircraft designators to its missile projects, and anti-aircraft missiles received F-for-Fighter designations. The Bomarc became the F-99.

Test flights of XF-99 test vehicles began in September 1952 and continued through early 1955. The XF-99 tested only the liquid-fueled booster rocket, which would accelerate the missile to ramjet ignition speed. In February 1955, tests of the XF-99A propulsion test vehicles began. These included live ramjets, but still had no guidance system or warhead. The designation YF-99A had been reserved for the operational test vehicles. In August 1955, the USAF discontinued the use of aircraft-like type designators for missiles, and the XF-99A and YF-99A became XIM-99A and YIM-99A, respectively. Originally the USAF had allocated the designation IM-69, but this was changed (possibly at Boeing's request to keep number 99) to IM-99 in October 1955. In October 1957, the first YIM-99A production-representative prototype flew with full guidance, and succeeded to pass the target within destructive range. In late 1957, Boeing received the production contract for the IM-99A Bomarc A interceptor missile, and in September 1959, the first IM-99A squadron became operational.

The operational IM-99A missiles were based horizontally in semi-hardened shelters ("coffins"). After the launch order, the shelter's roof would slide open, and the missile raised to the vertical. After the missile was supplied with fuel for the booster rocket, it would be launched by the Aerojet General LR59-AJ-13 booster. After supersonic speed was reached, the Marquardt RJ43-MA-3 ramjets would ignite and propel the missile to its cruise speed and altitude of Mach 2.8 at 20000 m (65000 ft). The Bomarc was guided to the target by ground commands from SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment), whose long-range radars tracked the enemy aircraft and the interceptor aircraft and missiles. When the Bomarc was within 16 km (10 miles) of the target, its own Westinghouse AN/DPN-34 radar guided the missile to the interception point. The maximum range of the IM-99A was 400 km (250 miles), and it was fitted with either a conventional high-explosive or a 10 kT W-40 nuclear fission warhead.

The liquid-fuel booster of the Bomarc A was no optimal solution. It took 2 minutes to fuel before launch, which can be long time in high-speed intercepts, and its hypergolic fuels were very dangerous to handle, leading to several severe accidents. As soon as high-thrust solid-fuel rockets became a reality in the mid-1950s, the USAF began to develop a new solid-fueled Bomarc variant, the IM-99B Bomarc B. It used a Thiokol XM51 booster, and also had improved Marquardt RJ43-MA-7 ramjets. The first IM-99B was launched in May 1959, but problems with the new propulsion system delayed the first fully successful flight until July 1960, when a supersonic KD2U-1/MQM-15A Regulus II drone was intercepted. Because the new booster took up less space in the missile, more ramjet fuel could be carried, increasing the range to 710 km (440 miles). The terminal homing system was also improved, using the world's first pulse doppler search radar, the Westinghouse AN/DPN-53. All Bomarc Bs were equipped with the W-40 nuclear warhead. In June 1961, the first IM-99B squadron became operational, and Bomarc B quickly replaced most Bomarc A missiles. The IM-99B was also used by Canada, after this country had cancelled its advanced CF-105 Arrow manned interceptor.

In June 1963, the IM-99A and IM-99B missiles were redesignated as CIM-10A and CIM-10B, respectively. The Bomarc A was retired soon afterwards, the last CIM-10A being phased out in December 1964. Withdrawal of the CIM-10B also began in the mid-1960s, and by 1969 most missile sites had been deactivated. Finally, in April 1972, the last Bomarc B in USAF service was retired. The Bomarc, designed to intercept relatively slow manned bombers, had become a useless asset in the era of the intercontinental ballistic missile.

The remaining Bomarc missiles were used by all armed services as high-speed target drones for tests of other air-defense missiles. The Bomarc A and Bomarc B targets were designated as CQM-10A and CQM-10B, respectively. When production had ceased in 1965, about 700 Bomarc missiles of all versions had been built by Boeing.


Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for CIM-10A/B:

Length 14.2 m (46 ft 9 in) 13.7 m (45 ft 1 in)
Wingspan 5.54 m (18 ft 2 in)
Diameter 0.89 m (35 in)
Weight 7020 kg (15500 lb) 7250 kg (16000 lb)
Speed Mach 2.8 Mach 3
Ceiling 20000 m (65000 ft) 30000 m (100000 ft)
Range 400 km (250 miles) 710 km (440 miles)
Propulsion Boost: Aerojet General LR59-AJ-13 liquid-fuel rocket; 156 kN (35000 lb)
Sustain: 2x Marquardt RJ43-MA-3 ramjet; 51 kN (11500 lb) each Boost: Thiokol M51 solid-fuel rocket; 222 kN (50000 lb)
Sustain: 2x Marquardt RJ43-MA-7 ramjet; 53 kN (12000 lb) each
Warhead W-40 nuclear fission (7-10 kT); CIM-10A had option for conventional HE

McGuire AFB BOMARC Missile Site, New Egypt, NJ
40.02 North / 74.41 West (Southwest of New York, NY)

A June 1960 aerial view looking north at the McGuire BOMARC missile site,
in its original configuration with 56 individual BOMARC A missile launch buildings.

The purpose of this military base was to shoot down incoming aircraft.
It is included here due to its significance in Cold War history,
and its remarkable state of preservation.

This site was one of a network of 8 BOMARC sites spread around the nation.
The others were located at Dow AFB, ME, Suffolk AFB, NY, Otis AFB, MA, Langley AFB, VA, Niagara Falls, NY, Kinchloe AFB, MI (Raco AAF), and Duluth IAP, MN.

Although designated the "McGuire AFB BOMARC site", the installation is well to the east of the Air Force Base. It actually sits just off the end of the primary runway of the Lakehurst Naval Air Test Facility, just east of NJ Route 539.

The McGuire installation was the Air Force's first operational BOMARC missile installation. Construction began in January 1958 and took nearly 2 years to complete.
The Philadelphia District of the Corps of Engineers supervised construction of the 56 Model II shelters (each of which housed a single IM-99A BOMARC missile on a launcher) & ancillary buildings.

The site was declared operationally ready on September 1, 1959, manned by the 46th Air Defense Missile Squadron. However, according to the Air Defense Command historian, this operational readiness declaration severely strained the concept of the term. As late as December, the facility hosted only 1 ready missile.

The earliest photo that has been located of the McGuire BOMARC site was a June 1960 aerial view. It depicted the McGuire BOMARC missile site in its original configuration with 56 individual BOMARC A missile launch buildings along the north side of the installation.

The BOMARC missile was huge: each one stood 45 feet tall & weighed 16,000 pounds.
More than 40 years after its deployment, it still holds the record for the longest range of any surface-to-air missile ever developed: 440 miles.
It also had a maximum speed of nearly Mach 4.

The McGuire BOMARC site was made infamous as the site of a radioactive material spill.

The incident happened on July 7, 1960, according to the book “U.S. Nuclear Weapons: A Secret History”, by Chuck Hansen.

A nuclear-armed BOMARC missile in ready storage condition (permitting launch in 2 minutes) in missile Shelter 204 was destroyed by explosion & fire after a high pressure helium tank exploded & ruptured the missile's fuel tanks.

The warhead was also destroyed by the fire although the high explosive did not detonate.

Plutonium fragments from the warhead were spread over an area surrounding the launcher.

The firefighting efforts around the missile building resulted in contamination being washed into the soil & a nearby stream.

All identifiable fragments of the warhead were recovered, but the surrounding soil in the site has remained in a low level radioactive state for over 40 years.

An undated photo of the remains of McGuire BOMARC missile Shelter 204,
showing the damage caused by the July 7, 1960 missile explosion.

By October 1962, McGuire's 1st generation BOMARC IM-99A missiles were superseded by the 2nd generation BOMARC IM-99B variant. Rather than reconfigure the original Model II shelters to accept the new missile, the Air Force directed that Model IV shelters be constructed on adjacent property to the north of the original launchers.
The New York District of the Corps of Engineers supervised the construction of these new launcher shelters.

A 1963 aerial view shows the addition of 28 individual BOMARC B missile launch buildings on the north side of the BOMARC A launchers.

The McGuire BOMARC site measures approximately 2,500' long by 1,800' wide.

With the reductions in US air defense forces, the McGuire BOMARC site was deactivated in 1972, along with all other BOMARC sites.

Andy Baumeister recalled, “We used to play in the abandoned BOMARC missile site.”
Of the site of the missile accident, he said “That area was covered in concrete & had another fence. We stayed away from that. The rest of the place was fully intact minus the missiles.”

The McGuire AFB BOMARC missile site, as depicted on the 1989 USGS topo map.

A 2001 photo by Thomas Page of the entrance to the former missile annex.
The entrance to the launcher area is seen at the end of the road in the distance.

A 2001 photo by Thomas Page of the abandoned BOMARC A missile launch shelters.

A 2001 photo by Thomas Page of the fenced-off area within the missile-launcher area.
This additional fence with rolls of razor wire inside strongly suggests
that this is the area where the accidental fire occurred.
The next-to-last shelter on the right might have been the one that experienced the fire, as part of the shelter’s roof appears to be missing.

Out of all the BOMARC sites, the McGuire site is probably the one that remains in the best condition. Most likely due to remaining low level radioactive contamination,
the entire site has simply been fenced off & abandoned as-is, with little attempt made to dismantle & reuse any of the buildings or equipment. As can be seen in the pictures, even the missile launch-erectors remain in the launcher buildings.

According to NJ resident Jim, as of 2002 the Air Force was finally decontaminating the site. They have built roads through NAES Lakehurst & have extended a rail line onto the BOMARC site. The contaminated soil is to be shipped by rail to a repository somewhere in the western US.

A 2002 photo (courtesy of Ed Drury) of Col. James Pugh, the Vice Commander of McGuire's 305th Air Mobility Wing, in front of the former BOMARC missile shelters.

In 2002, the Air Force finally began a program to clean up the radioactive contamination of the BOMARC site. A private contractor was hired to remove a total of 12,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil. The project involved paving a 2.5 mile former tank trail which ran onto the Lakehurst NAS property, to make it suitable for trucks carrying away the soil, and rebuilding a railroad spur on the Lakehurst property.

As seen in a circa 2001-2005 USGS aerial photo, all 84 individual BOMARC missile launch buildings still existed.

A 2005 aerial photo by Tom Kramer, looking east at the McGuire BOMARC site.
Tom observed, “A new fence has been erected completely around the facility
as a company has been contracted to clean up the site. You can see the light patch of ground where a few of the [launcher sheds] have been removed along with the earth.”

The McGuire BOMARC site is located along Route 539 (also known as the Hornerstown-Whiting Road).

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