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The AGM-129 ACM (Advanced Cruise Missile) is a stealthy, nuclear-armed cruise missile used exclusively by B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers. It was originally planned to completely replace the AGM-86 ALCM, but limited funding led to the procurment of less than 500 missiles.
USAF studies for a new cruise missile with stealth characteristics began in 1982, when it became clear that the AGM-86 ALCM would become too easily detectable by future advanced air-defense systems. In 1983, General Dynamics was awarded the development contract for the new AGM-129A ACM. The first test missile flew in July 1985, and in June 1990, the first production missiles were delivered to the USAF.
|Photo: General Dynamics|
The AGM-129A is powered by a Williams F112 turbofan engine, and armed with the same W-80-1 variable-yield thermonuclear warhead as the AGM-86B ALCM. Its external shape is optimized for LO (Low Observables) characteristics and includes forward-swept wings and tailplanes, a flush air intake, and a flat shielded jet exhaust. For guidance, the ACM uses an inertial navigation system together with a TERCOM (Terrain Contour Matching) system. The accuracy is quoted between 30 m (100 ft) and 90 m (300 ft), but it is highly likely, that the operational missiles were upgraded with GPS receivers for further enhanced accuracy. Range of the AGM-129A is also significantly higher than that of the AGM-86B. Alhough the ACM was originally intended for the B-1B, it is now deployed only by the B-52H. A cruise-missile configured B-52H can carry up to 20 ACMs, eight on the internal rotary launcher, and 12 on two underwing pylons.
Original plans called for the production of up to 2500 AGM-129 missiles, but this total was soon reduced to 1460 and later to 1000. Like many other weapon programs, the ACM was affected by the end of the Cold War. In 1992, the USAF announced to halt production of the missile after 460 rounds, and the last one was delivered in 1993. Current prime contractor for all AGM-129 activities is Raytheon Missile Systems Co.
|Photo: USAF||Photo: General Dynamics|
There was also a projected AGM-129B version of the ACM. The official source  describes it as an "AGM-129A modified with structural and software changes and an alternate nuclear warhead for accomplishing a classified cruise missile mission." Apart from that, no further information is available, but most likely no ACMs were completed as AGM-129Bs. Reports, which attribute the AGM-129B designation to a planned, but eventually not funded, non-nuclear version of the ACM are erroneous. While a conventionally armed ACM was indeed proposed to the USAF by General Dynamics (and unofficially referred to as "AGM-129C"), this proposal was turned down.
In March 2007, the USAF announced that it will retire its entire stockpile of AGM-129 missiles (most likely until some time in 2008).
Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!
Data for AGM-129A:
|Length||6.35 m (20 ft 10 in)|
|Wingspan||3.10 m (10 ft 2 in)|
|Diameter||70.5 cm (27.75 in)|
|Weight||1680 kg (3700 lb)|
|Range||3000 km (1865 miles)|
|Propulsion||Williams F112-WR-100 turbofan; 3.25 kN (732 lb)|
|Warhead||W-80-1 thermonuclear (5-150 kT)|
 James N. Gibson: "Nuclear Weapons of the United States", Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 1996
 Hajime Ozu: "Missile 2000 - Reference Guide to World Missile Systems", Shinkigensha, 2000
 "DOD 4120.15-L: Model Designation of Military Aerospace Vehicles", Department of Defense, 1990
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