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McDonnell Douglas Air-2A "Genie" Rocket

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Model number: MB-1, AIR-2A Classification: Air-to-air missile
First flight: July 19, 1957 Length: 9 feet 8 inches
Diameter (body): 17.5 inches Fin-span: 3 feet 4 inches        (fins extended)
Weight: 822 pounds Speed: Mach 3  (2,100 mph)
Range: 6 miles Service Ceiling: 50,000 feet
Armament:  Nuclear warhead W-25 nuclear fission (1.5 kT)
Lethal radius 300 meters (1,000 ft). approximately 1/2 cubic mile (Primary destruct area)
Propulsion: Thiokol SR49-TC-1 (model TU-289) solid-fueled rocket; 162 kN (36,500 lb)

 

MB-1/AIR-2 Genie missiles carried by F-101 Voodoo

The Genie was the world's first nuclear-armed air-to-air weapon and was the most powerful interceptor missile ever deployed by the U.S. Air Force.

In 1954 the Douglas Aircraft Co. began work on a small unguided nuclear-armed air-to-air missile and started full-scale development a year later. In 1955 and early 1956, F-89D Scorpion aircraft made the first test firings. The top-secret project had several code names, including "Bird Dog," "Ding Dong" and "High Card." Finally, it was designated MB-1 and called the Genie. The MB-1 became operational in 1957, and the first and only live firing of a nuclear Genie was July 19, 1957.

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Powered by a Thiokol SR49 solid-fueled rocket motor, it was armed with a 1.5-kT nuclear warhead and had flip-out fins for flight stability. F-89J, F-101B and F-106A interceptors carried the Genie. The firing aircraft had to pull away in a sharp turn to escape the blast after launching the weapon, a challenging feat for subsonic fighter jets.

In June 1963, the Genie rockets were designated in the AIR-2 series. The MB-1 became the AIR-2A, the MB-1-T was the ATR-2A, and the MMB-1 was the AIR-2B. The training rocket was officially designated ATR-2A and also known as ATR-2N.

Douglas built more than 1,000 Genie rockets before terminating production in 1962. However, in 1965, Thiokol began producing a motor for the AIR-2 with a longer life span and wider firing temperature limits. After the mid 1970s, upgraded Genie rockets were designated AIR-2B. The Air Force removed the last AIR-2 rockets from the inventory during the early 1980s.

 

McDonnell Douglas Air-2A "Genie" Rocket

 

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AIR-2 Genie

 The AIR-2A Genie is an air-to-air rocket with a nuclear warhead designed for use against formations of enemy bombers. It has no guidance system and is powered by a solid-propellant rocket motor. The Air-2 (formerly known as the MB-1) was first test launched in 1956 and became operational in January 1957. On July 19, 1957, a Genie was launched at 18,000 from an F-89J interceptor and detonated over Yucca Flats, Nevada. It was the first and only test detonation of a U.S. nuclear-tipped air-to-air rocket.

The AIR-2A was carried primarily by F-89J, F-101B, and F-106A interceptor aircraft. Thousands were built for the USAF before production ended in 1962; they remained in service until the mid-1980s. A training version of the Genie with an inert rocket motor and no nuclear warhead, known as the ATR-2, was also in service. The Genie on display was originally received by the Museum as an ATR-2N. It is mounted on an MF-9 trailer for transport.

Courtesy US AIR FORCE Museum

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An AIR-2 Genie nuclear rocket in position to be up-loaded between the aft Falcon missile rails. The  blue colored band indicates that this is a practice or training round.

The primary weapon of the F-106, as it was designed, was the McDonnell Douglass AIR-2A Genie. AIR stood for Air Intercept Rocket.  The genie was technically an unguided weapon , although the Hughes MA-1 system would track the target, arm and fire the missile, and pull the aircraft into a hard climbing turn away from the blast zone, and then detonate the nuclear warhead at a predetermined range.  Maximum flight time was only 12 seconds, with a range of a little over 6 miles, at a speed of Mach 3.  It was developed under project "Ding Dong" in 1955, with the first test firing with a dummy in July 1959.  Only one actual live fire field test was ever maid over the Nevada desert.

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After being launched at a formation of enemy bombers, the Genie's stabilizer fins extended and the 36,600 pound thrust solid-fuel Thikok TU-289 rocket ignited driving the weapon toward the enemy. The 1.5 kilo-ton warhead had an estimated destruct radius of a little under one cubic mile.   It was calculated that enemy targets outside the primary field of destruction would be disabled by the electromagnetic  pulse of the blast knocking out their electronics system.

The Genie was deactivated and removed from the Air Force Arsenal in the mid 1980s.

         Courtesy Wings of Fame Vol. 12

 

Live Firing The Genie Rocket

The Genie Firing Sequence

 

The Douglas Genie (MB-1 Ding-Dong, AIR-2) was an unguided air-to-air rocket with a 1.5kt W25 nuclear warhead. It was deployed by the United States Air Force (from the late 1950s) and the Royal Canadian Air Force (from 1 February 1968 to the 1980s) during the Cold War. Production ended in 1962 after over 1000 were produced, with some related training and test derivatives occurring later.

Development

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Operation Plumbbob  Nuclear Test, a live test of nuclear AIR-2A Genie rocket on July 19th 1957. Fired by an US Air Force F-89J over Yucca Flats Nuclear Test Site at an altitude of ~15,000 ft (4.5 km or about 3 miles).

The interception of Soviet bombers was a major military preoccupation of the late 1940s and 1950s. The revelation in 1947 that the Soviet Union had produced a reverse-engineered copy of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, the Tupolev Tu-4 (NATO reporting name 'Bull'), which could reach the continental United States in a one-way attack, followed by the Soviets developing the atomic bomb in 1949, produced considerable anxiety.

Against high-speed bombers, the World War II-vintage fighter armament of machine guns and cannon was inadequate. The use of large volleys of unguided rockets was not much more satisfactory, and true air-to-air missiles were in their infancy. In 1954 Douglas Aircraft began a program to investigate the possibility of a nuclear-armed air-to-air weapon. To ensure simplicity and reliability, the weapon would be unguided, the large blast radius making relative inaccuracy mostly irrelevant.

The resultant weapon carried a 1.5-kiloton W25 nuclear warhead and was powered by a Thiokol SR49-TC-1 solid-fuel rocket engine of 162 kN (36,500 lbf) thrust. It had a range of slightly under 10 km (6.2 mi). Targeting, arming, and firing of the weapon were coordinated by the launch aircraft's fire-control system. Detonation was by time-delay fuse, although the fuse would not arm the warhead until engine burn-out, to give the launch aircraft time to turn and escape. Lethal radius of the blast was estimated to be about 300 meters (1,000 ft).

The first test firings (of inert rounds) took place in 1956, and the weapon entered service with the designation MB-1 in 1957. The popular name was Genie, but it was often nick-named 'Ding-Dong.' About 3,150 rounds were produced before production ended in 1963. In 1962 the weapon was redesignated AIR-2A Genie. Many rounds were upgraded with improved, longer-duration rocket motors, the upgraded weapons sometimes known (apparently only semi-officially) as AIR-2B. An inert training round, originally MB-1-T and later ATR-2A, was also produced in small numbers.

A live Genie was detonated only once, in Operation Plumbbob on 19 July 1957. It was fired by a Montana Air National Guard F-89J over Yucca Flats Nuclear Test Site at an altitude of 4,500 m (15,000 ft). A group of USAF officers volunteered to stand underneath the blast to prove that the weapon was safe for use over populated areas. Whether this affected the health of the officers is unknown.

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The Genie was cleared for being carried on the F-89 Scorpion, F-101B Voodoo, F-106 Delta Dart, and F-104 Starfighter in U.S. service. However, the Starfighter never carried it in operational service. Convair offered an upgrade of the F-102 Delta Dagger that would have been Genie-capable, but it was not adopted. Operational use of the Genie was discontinued in 1988 with the retirement of the F-106 interceptor.

The only non-U.S. user was Canada, whose CF-101 Voodoos carried Genies until 1984 via a dual-key arrangement where the missiles were kept under American custody, and released to Canada under circumstances requiring their use. The RAF briefly considered the missile for use on the English Electric Lightning.

The F-89J that was used to launch the only live test is on static display at the Montana Air National Guard in Great Falls, MT.

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