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AIM-68 Big Q

AIM-68In 1963, the US Air Force launched a top-secret program, known as "Quetzalcoatl" or "Big Q". The initial designer chose the name of the Aztec serpent god Quetzalcoatl. This led to a tremendous number of pronunciation and spelling errors until finally virtually everybody associated with the project simply referred to it as Big Q for short. The Big Q program was also referred to as "AIM-X" in the project's files, probably because the AIM-68 designation was never officially confirmed. In March 1965, the missile was given the designation ZAIM-68A.

The purpose of this program was to create an air-to-air missile with a nuclear warhead. The rocket had to be more lightweight and more efficient than the unguided AIR-2 Genie. AIM AIM-68 was equipped with a solid-propellant rocket engine, a nuclear warhead W-30 with a power of 0.5 kT (three times less powerful than 1.5 kT in AIR-2) and a dual-mode (semi-active radar + infrared) guidance system. This weapon was intended both for combating bomber formations, and for single aircraft. It would have been faster (Mach 4 vs. Mach 3), longer ranged (over 40 miles vs. 6 miles) and lighter (500 pounds vs. 800 pounds) than the Genie. Although smaller than the 1.5 kiloton W25 on the Genie, the focus was more on intercepting single bombers, and possibly maneuvering aircraft. The reduced yield and greater range also made using the weapon a far less hazardous prospect for the launching aircraft.

The AIM-68 was designed with a dual-thrust solid-propellant rocket and was capable of reaching speeds of Mach 4 over its 65 kilometre (40 mile) range. The prototypes were fitted with infrared guidance systems from GAR-2A/B (AIM-4C/D) Falcon missiles; the rocket motor from the AGM-12 Bullpup was used for propulsion.

The carriers AIM-68 were identified: interceptors F-102A Delta Dagger and F-106A "Delta Dart", F-101B and possibly F-4C. The size of the missile was dictated by these choices, as some of the aircraft carried weapons in an internal bay. As part of the effort to keep the size down, the missile was fitted with fold-out sections on the main wings. Work on the program Quirky reached testing in the wind tunnel, after which, in 1966, the program was discontinued. The reason for the US Air Force's refusal from this SD was the change in financial priorities (ICBM programs and conflicts in South-East Asia). Instead of replacing the AIR-2 with AIM-68, the US Air Force upgraded Genie's missile systems.

The U.S. Navy proposed that the new Standard Block V missile should be known as the RIM-68A. This failed (the designation RIM-156A was used instead). In 1995, the Navy tried to change it again apparently wanting an operational missile to have a continuous run with the RIM-66 Standard MR and RIM-67 Standard ER designations. The request was also refused.

length2.92 m
wing span0.86 m
PGO range0.54 m
diameter0.35 m
total weight225 kg
speed4 m
range65 km
nuclear warhead W-30, with a yield of 0.5 kT.

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