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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


SM-73 Bull Goose

The XSM-73 (WS-123A) Bull Goose was an intercontinental range surface-launched decoy missile. Work on the concept started in December 1952, although USAF did not release a request (GOR 16) until March 1953, and did not sign a contract with Fairchild until December 1955.

The Air Force planned to field 10 Bull Goose squadrons and buy 2,328 missiles in addition to 53 for research and development. The first squadron was to be operational in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 1961, the last at the end of Fiscal Year 1963. But problems with funding, the subcontractor's fiberglass-resin bonded wing, the booster, and the engine (J83-3) delayed the program.

The delta-wing XSM-73 weighed 7,700 pounds at launch, including a 500-pound payload. A J83 or J85 engine provided the Bull Goose with 2,450 pounds of thrust after a booster with a 50,000-pound thrust got it aloft. The specifications called for a 4,000-mile range at Mach .85 with an accuracy of plus or minus 100 nm. Sled tests began at Holloman in February 1957, with the first of 15 flights taking place at the Atlantic Missile Range in June 1957. While five tests in 1957 were successful, those in 1958 were less so. Construction of the missile sites began in August 1958, a few months before the first Bull Goose flight with the YJ83 engine in November. USAF considered arming the Goose, but in early December canceled the program because of budgetary pressures and because the Fairchild missile could not simulate a B-52 on enemy radar. The Goose program amassed a total of 28~/2 flying hours at a cost of $70 million.

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.

The Fairchild XSM-73 Bull Goose was a pilotless surface launched decoy missile designed in the 1950s to simulate the radar signatures of large bombers. If several ground-launched, intercontinental-range SM-73 decoys saturated and confused enemy defenses, the real bombers had a better chance of getting through to their targets. The Bull Goose carried electronic simulation and jamming equipment, and reflectors in its airframe made it look like a much larger aircraft on air defense radars.

USAF considered arming the Goose, but nothing came of this plan, which probably emerged as the mass of nuclear weapons decreased in the late 1950s. The Gander reported to be under development by Fairchild, was virtually an offensive version of Goose. Likewise fabricated from dielectric glass-fiber material, it is stated to present a radar target one-tenth as great as that of an F-86 Sabre. Gander can cruise subsonically for 2,000 miles carrying a payload with a yield of 1 MT.

The exact meaning of the term "Bull Goose" is unclear, though it is frequently used to denote "a rascal of proportion and spirit" or "loony, a nutcase, certifiable, crazy, or a pleasant kind of madness". The term "bull goose" is an oxymoron. A "bull" indicates masculine qualities [a male goose is a gander] while a "goose" indicates feminine. So a "bull goose" is not entirely under control and perhaps unable to discern whether they are a bull or a goose.

The 33.5-foot-long missile was designed in the 1950s to confuse enemy defenses by simulating the radar signatures of large bombers like the B-36, B-47 and B-52. The thought was that if several ground-launched, intercontinental-range SM-73 decoys could saturate defense radars, then the real bombers would have a better chance of reaching their targets.

Work on the concept started in December 1952, although USAF did not release a request (GOR 16) until March 1953, and did not sign a contract with Fairchild until December 1955. In 1952 the Fairchild Company began research on the concept of a ground-launched long-range decoy missile to simulate B-36, B-47, B-52 and B-58 strategic bombers on radar. A year later, the USAF released General Operational Requirement (GOR) 16 which called for a long range decoy missile to increase the effectiveness of Strategic Air Command bombers by confusing and saturating an air defense system. Study contracts were awarded to the Convair and Fairchild companies in July 1954 by the USAF under the project designation MX-2223. In December 1955, Fairchild was awarded a contract to develop Weapon System 123A which included the SM-73 missile. American Machine and Foundry Company was responsible for the ground equipment, Ramo-Woodridge Corporation was responsible for electronic equipment, and Paul Omohundro Co who was responsible for airframe elements.

The concept developed by Fairfield consisted of multiple SM-73 missiles would be ground-launched from Strategic Air Command (SAC) bases located in the continental US. Fifty percent of the deployed SM-73 missiles would be launched within the first hour after an alert and the remaining missiles would be launched one hour later. The requirement called for 85 percent of the decoy missiles to arrive at the target area within 185 km or 115 nautical miles (nm). The SM-73 was to fly 7,400 km (4,000 nm) at speed of at least 0.85 Mach at an operating altitude of 15,000 meters (50,000 ft) with a payload of 225 kilograms (kg) or 500 pounds (lbs). After flying 4,600 km (2,500 nm), the SM-73 would simulate the performance of the B-36, B-47, and B-52 over the final 2,800 km (1,500 nm) of flight (because of the subsonic performance, simulation of the B-58 was not required).

The Air Force planned to field 10 Bull Goose squadrons and to purchase 2,328 operational missiles and 53 missiles for test and evaluation. This would have provided enough missiles for 10 squadrons. The first squadron was to be operational in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 1961, the last at the end of Fiscal Year 1963 by October 1963. Bull Goose bases were initially planned at Duluth Municipal Airport, Minnesota and Ethan Allen Air Force Base, Vermont.

The delta-wing XSM-73 weighed 7,700 pounds at launch, including a 500-pound payload. A J83 or J85 engine provided the Bull Goose with 2,450 pounds of thrust after a booster with a 50,000-pound thrust got it aloft. The specifications called for a 4,000-mile range at Mach .85 with an accuracy of plus or minus 100 nm. Like the Quail, the Bull Goose was a decoy missile. The Quail was firedfrom the B-52, while the Bull Goose, an entirely fiberglass decoy, was launched from ground facilities that resembled what Aviation Week termed an "old fashioned bread box."

The Fairchild MX-2223 design called for a non-metallic fuselage with swept wings and a v-tail. Radar reflectors were located in the fuselage and on pods positioned on the wing tips to simulate the radar return of a bomber. General Electric (GE) was awarded a contract for the development of the GE J85 and Fairchild was awarded a contract for a competing engine the Fairchild J83. Fairchild proposed a lightweight engine of conventional design. The proposed GE engine had a more advanced design, involving more risk, but having a higher thrust to weight ratio.

The XSM-73 was powered by the Fairchild J83 on all test flights but was also capable of using the GE J85. The Fairchild J83 was operating by early 1957. Like the MX-2223 design, the SM-73 utilized a non-metallic fiberglass fuselage. The swept wing of the MX-2223 design evolved to a fiberglass 52 degree delta wing. A Thiokol solid-propellant rocket booster was used to launch the SM-73 to a speed of 300 knots. Cruise speed for the SM-73 was 488 knots. The SM-73 had a fuel capacity of 3,040 liters (l) or 800 gallons (gal) of JP-4. This fuel was stored in 10 fuselage and six wing tanks. The control system positioned flight controls by sending electrical signals to hydraulic actuators located at each flight control. The SM-73 was designed to carry radar reflectors and active electronic countermeasures operating in S-band, L-band, and lower frequencies.

Work on the concept started in December 1952, although USAF did not sign a contract with Fairchild until December 1955. Test and evaluation began in February 1957 with rocket sled tests at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. Testing of the SM-73 then transitioned to CCAFS, with the first of 15 flights taking place at the Atlantic Missile Range in June 1957.

Aside from the Army Bumper launches, the majority of launches at Cape Canaveral in the early 1950s were Air Force winged missile launches. In the mid-1950s, a launch area near the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse was set aside to support the Bull Goose missile program. Construction began in 1956 and the Air Force accepted both complexes on 26 February 1957.

As part of the development and testing of the Goose/Bull Goose, Fairfield developed the missile to be launched from a fixed angle launcher which is raised and lowered by a removable electrical jack. To find a cost effective means of constructing launch complexes for the Goose missile, the American Machine Company was contracted to develop a launch shelter. In 1958, their architectural firm came up with a structure similar in appearance to a Quonset hut. The prototype was snow load and wind tested in Chicago and then was moved to CCAFS to undergo testing using a live firing launch of a Goose/Bull Goose missile. Aviation Week suggested that Facility 49800 was the first such launch shelter ever built and may be one of a kind.

The front side contained the larger doors under which were smaller “panic doors”. The rear of the building contained smaller roll up doors presumably for accesses the rear of the missiles as well as allowing exhaust to escape during launches. The building was divided into three launch “cells”. While similar to a Quonset hut in appearance it was constructed of vertical metal panels riveted together to create a free-standing structure which did not need a frame. It was also constructed as a prototype launch shelter in support of the Goose/Bull Goose missile program. Today Facility 49800 remains essentially unchanged from when it was moved to the site in 1960. It is a rectangular-shaped mass, semi-circular in cross section similar in appearance to a Quonset hut. The east and west elevations have single metal slab doors set in a steel frame. Affixed to the doors are “Do Nor Enter” signs.

At CCAFS, LC-21/22 was constructed to support SM-73 testing. Five dummy booster launches and fifteen test flights were flown between March 1957 and December 1958. Construction of Bull Goose missile sites began in August 1958. The Bull Goose flight test program was plagued by troubles, including problems with the booster, the turbojet and the composite-structure wing, funding difficulties, and the inability of the XSM-73 to realistically simulate the B-52 on radar.

When the Quail shifted from Hill to Tinker, Air Materiel Command assigned the Bull Goose to the Ogden AMA (which had previously been tasked to Middletown). While the Bull Goose was still in test, and even as its prototype launcher underwent study at the site of the American Machine and Foundry Company in Chicago (with planned erection at ARDC's Missile Test Center at Patrick in Florida), the Air Force cancelled that program as well. Its assignment at Hill had been minimal, lasting 18 months.

Goose testing occurred at Complex 21/22 between March 13, 1957 and December 5, 1958. The first Bull Goose missile was tested at Cape Canaveral on 13 March 1957 at the almost-completed Pad 22. While five tests in 1957 were successful, those in 1958 were less so.

The missile’s designation changed from Bull Goose to simply Goose in May 1958. Construction of the missile sites began in August 1958, a few months before the first Bull Goose flight with the YJ83 engine in November.

Problems with funding, the subcontractor's fiberglass-resin bonded wing, the booster, and the engine (J83-3) delayed the program. The Goose program amassed a total of 28.5 flying hours at a cost of $70 million. Initially flown in 1957, the experimental XSM-73 was plagued with engine, structural and electronic problems, forcing cancellation of the Bull Goose project in early December 1958, three years ahead of its planned deployment as the SM-73. The Air Force cancelled the program because of budgetary pressures and because the Fairchild missile could not simulate a B-52 on enemy radar. Despite never becoming operational, the Bull Goose's fiberglass-resin wings provided early experience in building aircraft using composite materials.

In September 2009, 40 years after receiving its XSM-73, the museum was able to place the decoy missile on display. Restoration Division members had retrieved it from storage and assigned the restoration task to a new team of volunteers: Dale Burnside, Elwood Dornbusch and Ron Smith. They worked on the project some 422 hours over a period of six months to make the XSM-73 look new again.




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