Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Appendix 4: Undesignated Vehicles
Copyright © 2003 Andreas Parsch

Minneapolis-Honeywell Wagtail

In September 1956, Minneapolis-Honeywell received a development contract for the Wagtail air-to-ground missile. Wagtail was a solid-fuel rocket-powered short-range missile, to be used for nuclear attacks by low-flying supersonic aircraft. It was equipped with retro-rockets which fired before main motor ignition to decelerate it rapidly after drop. This gave the delivery aircraft enough time to escape the thermonuclear explosion. The missile had flip-out tail fins, and used an inertial navigation system together with a terrain-following radar. The latter features gave it some stand-off range and the capability to clear obstacles when launched at low altitude.

Drawing: David McKinney
Wagtail *
*See note below

Wagtail was flight tested in 1958, but was not put into production. The program was cancelled before 1962, most likely around 1960/61. One of the aircraft, which would have used Wagtail, was the B-58 Hustler. Wagtail was also adapted for use as a rearward-firing air-to-air missile (presumably for bomber defense), but I have no information whether this configuration was actually flight tested.

Note: Both the drawing and the dimension figures in the table are from source [3]. However, it is immediately evident that the figures are incompatible with the drawing. The figures give a length/diameter (L/D) ratio of 5.6, while the sketch shows an L/D of 12.5. Furthermore, there is a (very small) drawing in source [5] of a proposed B-58 configuration with Wagtail missiles, and the Wagtails are cylindrical missiles with tiny fins and an L/D of about 7.5. To sum it up, I couldn't find reliable and accurate data about Wagtail's general layout and overall dimensions.


Data for Wagtail:

Length1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)*
Diameter30.5 cm (12 in)*
PropulsionDual-thrust solid-fueled rocket;
  boost phase: 44 kN (10000 lb) for 7.4 s
  terminal phase: 11 kN (2500 lb) for 2.5 s
*See note in main text.

Main Sources

[1] Bill Gunston: "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rockets and Missiles", Salamander Books Ltd, 1979
[2] John W. R. Taylor (ed.): "Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1960-61", Jane's, 1961
[3] Norman J. Bowman: "The Handbook of Rockets and Guided Missiles", Perastadion Press, 1963
[4] Frederick I. Ordway III, Ronald C. Wakeford: "International Missile and Spacecraft Guide", McGraw-Hill, 1960
[5] Jay Miller: "Convair B-58 Hustler", Aerofax

Back to Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 4

Last Updated: 3 June 2003