Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Appendix 1: Early Missiles and Drones
Copyright © 2002 Andreas Parsch

Bell ASM-A-2/B-63/GAM-63 Rascal

The Rascal was the first nuclear-armed air-launched standoff missile of the U.S. Air Force. However, it was never fully operational and was replaced by the much more modern GAM-77/AGM-28 Hound Dog.

In 1946 the U.S. Army Air Force awarded study contracts for various general air-to-surface missile requirements to several aerospace companies. In 1947, all studies were terminated except for Bell's MX-776 project, and in May that year Bell received a development contract for the ASM-A-2 Rascal missile. Between April 1949 and Jaunary 1953, the RTV-A-4/X-9 Shrike test vehicle tested the Rascal's general aerodynamic design, radio control system and liquid rocket propulsion system. In 1951, the USAF assigned aircraft designations to its guided missiles, and the Rascal became the B-63. In September 1952, the first air-launch of a powered XB-63 from a specially modified DB-50D occurred. Testing continued with XB-63 prototypes and B-63 production-representative missiles. Initially the Rascal had a radio command guidance system by Federal Telecommunications/RCA, but this was replaced in later missiles by a Bell-developed inertial navigation system (INS). The designation B-63A most likely referred to the INS-equipped missiles.

Photo: USAF
XB-63 (XGAM-63)

In 1955, the Air Force stopped the use of aircraft designations for missiles, and the Rascal was redesignated in the GAM-63 series as follows:

Old Designation New Designation
XB-63 XGAM-63
B-63 GAM-63
B-63A GAM-63A

The GAM-63 was powered by a Bell LR67 liquid-propellant rocket engine with three combustion chambers. The large missile had to be carried externally by the DB-47E carrier aircraft. The Rascal's forward flying surfaces comprised fixed horizontal and movable dorsal and ventral fins, and the rear surfaces were made up by wings with ailerons and non-moving (but foldable) dorsal and ventral vertical tails. The initial models were guided to the target by radio commands from the launching aircraft, but the final GAM-63A missiles used an inertial guidance system. The accuracy was around 900 m (3000 ft) CEP for the radio-command guided and 450 m (1500 ft) for the inertially guided missiles. The Rascal had a range of about 160 km (100 miles) at a speed of Mach 1.6. Initially, the GAM-63 was to use a W-5 nuclear fission warhead, but this was later changed to a 2 MT W-27 thermonuclear device.

Photo: via FAS

The first squadron of DB-47E bombers was established in late 1957, but the unit never became fully operational with the Rascal. The program was terminated in November 1958, and the last GAM-63A was withdrawn in 1959. Because of its limited range and accuracy, and its difficult-to-handle liquid-fueled rocket engine with its toxic propellants, the Rascal was far inferior to the newer GAM-77/AGM-28 Hound Dog, which was then in advanced development. About 150 GAM-63 missiles of all variants had been built.


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

Data for GAM-63A:

Length9.74 m (31 ft 11.5 in)
Wingspan5.09 m (16 ft 8.3 in)
Diameter1.22 m (4 ft)
Weight6120 kg (13500 lb)
SpeedMach 1.6
Range160 km (100 miles)
PropulsionBell XLR67-BA-1 liquid-fueled rocket; 53.3 kN (12000 lb)
WarheadW-27 thermonuclear (2 MT)

Main Sources

[1] James N. Gibson: "Nuclear Weapons of the United States", Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 1996
[2] Bill Gunston: "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rockets and Missiles", Salamander Books Ltd, 1979

Back to Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 1

Last Updated: 1 December 2002