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ADM-20 / GAM-72 Quail / Green Quail

GAM-72 Quail The most successful of the decoy missiles proved to be the McDonnell Quail -- most successful because it not only became operational, but it served SAC for more than ten years. The Green Quails were to lead coveys of enemy anti-missiles and interceptors wildly astray while Hound Dogs and the B-52s themselves fan out and race ahead to Soviet targets.

Decoy missiles were a major subdivision of cruise missiles developed during the 1950s and 1960s. The decoys were designed to appear on enemy radar the same as the SAC bombers, and thus to confuse, dilute, and degrade enemy air defenses. Those responsible for the naming of the decoy missiles must have been hunters to have come up with the names they did : Buck Duck, Bull Goose, and Green Quail. Actually, these names all reference deception, but are strangely obscure terms.

These birds periodically turn themselves poisonous, and poisoning due to quail consumption is occaisionaly seen. Such a toxicological syndrome (also called coturnism) occurs during the migration of quails, when they consume hemlock seeds. Coturnism is a rare cause of acute rhabdomyolysis that can be lethal due to renal failure and shock. Coturnism, like Haff disease, is rare and often misdiagnosed. It is seen in rural Mediterranean areas during autumn, the migration period of the European common quail, Coturnix coturnix. Coturnism has been recognized since antiquity.

The Old Testament mentions the group poisoning of the Jewish people during the Exodus (Numbers:11). "31. Now a wind went out from the Lord, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground. 32. And the people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers); and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. 33. But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was aroused against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague. 34. So he called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah [Graves of Craving], because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving."

Unusual smell or taste does not help in identifying toxic food, and cooking methods cannot detoxify a bird capable of causing the syndrome. The ancients, ranging from Lucretius, Galen, Diogenese Laertius to Sextus Empiricus, knew of the dangers of eating quails. Pliny the Elder stated in his "Natural History" that quails often feed on sees of poisonous plants, and cautions people to banisht them from their tables. The quails which cause health problems are almost always the so-called 'green quails', namely, gaunt and tired birds coming in the spring. These birds have eaten hemlock, nightshade and henbane. Hemlock was a favored and effective poison in Socrates' time.

The Quail missile program began on 13 October 1952 when the Strategic Air Command submitted a requirement to Headquarters USAF for an air-launched decoy missile. The latter, in turn, directed the Air Research and Development Command to study the technological feasibility, costs, and other pertinent aspects of such a proposed weapon system. The program formally was initiated in April 1955, with formal requirement (GOR 139) established in January 1956. On 1 February 1956, the Air Material Command notified the McDonnell Aircraft Company of its selection as prime contractor for the Quail. Flight tests began in July 1957, with the first glide test in November 1957 and the f first successful powered flight, which lasted 14 minutes and covered 103 miles, in August 1958. The progress of the tests enabled McDonnell to gain a production contract on 31 December 1958, about the same time the Air Force terminated so many other projects.

The GAM-72 (ADM-20A) was a tailless high-wing delta with four vertical fins. McDonnell designed the missile to operate at 35,000 to 50,000 feet, at Mach .75 to .9, with a range (depending on altitude) of 357 to 445 nm. While eight could be carried on the B-52 and four on the B47, the normal loading was, respectively, four and two.

The Quail simulated the bomber in a number of ways. First, its operational performance was comparable to the B-52; and it could be programmed (on the ground) to make at least two changes in direction and one in speed during its 46- to 55-minute flight. Second, its slab sides and twin vertical ventral and twin vertical dorsal few produced a radar image similar to the bomber. In addition, the GAM-72 carried a 100-pound ECM payload consisting initially of a responder, later of both chaff and a heat source.

A General Electric J85 powered the decoy and caused most of the problems on the project, even though the same engine also powered the Northrop T-38. These problems led to modification of the engine, one of the major differences between the original GAM-72 (AGM-20A) and its successor, the GAM-72A (AGM-20B). The latter used the J85-GE-7, which had eight compressor stages instead of the seven stages in the J85-GE-3. The GAM-72A weighed almost 200 pounds more than the GAM-72, but had the same engine power and less wing area. Hence, it carried less payload a shorter time and distance at the same speed. The GAM-72A first flew in March 1960.

SAC received its first GAM-72 in on 13 September 1960, when the first production-line Quail missiles were delivered to the 4135th Strategic Wing, a B-52G unit at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Headquarters SAC declared one Quail-equipped squadron of the 4135th Strategic Wing operational on 1 February 1961, and eleven B-52 squadrons were fully equipped and operational by 31 December 1961. The fourteenth and final Quail-equipped B-52 squadron became operational on 15 April 1962. The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation delivered the last Quail missile to the Strategic Air Command on 28 May 1962. SAC had 492 Quails at its peak inventory in 1963. In all, McDonnell produced 616 of the missiles.

But while the Quail served on, there were major problems. Reliability declined. Improvements in enemy radar rendered the Quail less effective. In a 1972 test, radar controllers correctly identified the B-52s 21 out of 23 times. By then, USAF recognized that the Quail was no longer a credible decoy. In 1971, the commander of SAC wrote the Air Force Chief of Staff that the Quail was only slightly better than nothing. The General's candor may have reflected the fact that the Air Force was already taking action to provide a more effective decoy.

The Quail remained operational until 1978. Although Strategic Air Command continued to support Quail as an effective and inexpensive penetration aid, the Air Force elected to phase out the missile because the lack of spare parts and adequate test equipment had made the system difficult to maintain. The last Quail missile came off alert on 30 June 1978 and the Quail was eliminated from SAC's missile inventory by mid-December.



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