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Air-to-Ground Missiles: AGM-12 Bullpup
The AGM-12 Bullpup was the first mass-produced air-to-ground missile in the U.S. military. Deployed by the U.S. Navy in 1959, it was created based on experiences in the Korean War. The Bullpup was used on aircraft such as the A-4 Skyhawk, A-6 Intruder, F-105 Thunderbolt, and F-4 Phantom. Unlike earlier missiles and bombs, the Bullpup was a guided weapon. It was eventually replaced in the 1970s with the AGM-62 Walleye and the AGM-65 Maverick.
AGM-12 Bullpup Air-to-Ground Missile Development
During the Korean War, the U.S. Navy found unguided bombs and missiles to be inadequate for destroying heavily defended targets such as bridges. A guided weapon that could be fired from a "standoff" distance, keeping the pilot and aircraft safe, was needed. The Navy issued an operational requirement for a short-range air-to-ground guided missile in 1953.
Martin Aircraft Co. won the competition to develop the new weapon and began the project in April 1954. The new missile was designated the ASM-N-7 Bullpup. The first successful air launch of a prototype took place in June 1955. The ASM-N-7 production version entered service with the Navy in April 1959.
The Bullpup was a roll-stabilized missile. It used a solid-rocket motor and carried a derivative of a standard 250-pound bomb. The ASM-N-7a Bullpup A was tested and brought into service in 1960, with a new liquid-fueled rocket engine with storable propellant giving it greater range. The new Bullpup also had an improved warhead.
The Bullpup used a manual command, line-of-sight guidance system. The pilot or weapons system officer (WSO) visually identified a target, and then launched the Bullpup. The pilot or WSO used a control stick to manually steer the missile based on visual feedback from two flares on the rear of the missile. The launching aircraft thus had to follow the Bullpup toward its target for optimal performance.
In Vietnam, enemy gunners on the ground adapted to the Bullpup launch methodology by firing toward the incoming smoke trail from the missile's flares, allowing them to hit launching aircraft. Pilots countered by jigging their flight path slightly to avoid anti-aircraft fire, with some success.
The ASM-N-7b Bullpup B represented a major step forward for the Bullpup. The missile was given a larger body section, enlarged wings, and a new Thiokol rocket engine with much greater thrust. This variant was first tested in 1962, and entered service in 1964. This was also the first variant adopted by the U.S. Air Force.
The Air Force contracted with Martin to create an advanced form of the Bullpup in 1955. This missile was to have greater range and be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The Air Force also wanted the new missile to have a guidance system that did not require the aircraft to follow the missile to the target. While this new missile, designated the GAM-79 White Lance, was under development, the Air Force adopted the ASM-N-7 Bullpup under the designation GAM-83.
The technology in the White Lance was merged with continued Bullpup development. The Air Force designated this missile the GAM-83A Bullpup, which was essentially the same as the ASM-N-7a Bullpup A. The GAM-83B was an improved version, capable of carrying a nuclear fission warhead.
The AGM-12 designation was introduced in June 1963, unifying the separate designation schemes used by the Navy and Air Force. Four variants were developed over the course of the Bullpup's lifetime.
A total of approximately 30,000 AGM-12 Bullpup missiles were manufactured. The AGM-12 was retired from service in the 1970s as better air-to-ground missiles were developed.
AGM-12 Bullpup Operational History
The Bullpup was first deployed overseas in April 1959 on FJ-4B Furies as a part of the Seventh Fleet in the Pacific. In August 1959, A4D aircraft deployed with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea carried the Bullpup.
The Bullpup was used widely in the Vietnam War. The Air Force began using the Bullpup on F-4 and F-105 fighters. However, the AGM-12 was not particularly effective against large concrete structures, such as bridges in North Vietnam, due to the relatively low yield of its warhead. For example, the Thanh Hoa Bridge (or "Dragon's Jaw" Bridge), 70 miles south of Hanoi, was attacked during April 1965 by aircraft carrying the AGM-12 Bullpup missiles. The 250-pound warhead proved too lightweight to do any real damage.
During July 1978 three Seaplane Patrol Squadron ONE (VP-1) crews fired the last Bullpup AGM-12 missiles during runs on practice targets. The practice firings were the last by Navy patrol aircraft, as the missile was removed that month from the Navy's inventory.
Characteristics of the AGM-12 Bullpup
Note: Characteristics change slightly depending on the AGM-12 variant.
Recommended Books about Air-to-Ground Weapons and the AGM-12 Bullpup