March 18, 1960: Rocket Sled Testing of the Hughes GAR 3A and 4A Air-to-Air Missiles

  • Published
  • Air Force Flight Test Center

Four months of rocket sled testing of the Hughes GAR 3A and 4A air-to-air missiles was completed at the High Speed Test Track. The effectiveness of the Falcon’s warhead and fusing system was tested against salvaged B-50 fuselages trucked in from Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. Approximately 39 Falcons were launched against their targets, positioned about 400 feet from the end of the 20,000 foot track, by using a rocket sled to boost the missile to launch speed.

The Falcon was the first operational guided air-to-air missile of the U.S. Air Force. Development started in 1946, when Hughes was awarded a contract to study a subsonic short-range air-to-air missile under project MX-798. The requirement was soon changed to a supersonic missile, to be launched from bombers for self-defense, and development continued under project MX-904 in 1947. At this time, the missile designator AAM-A-2 was also assigned. The first experimental XAAM-A-2 missiles were tested in 1949, and in 1950, the missile's platform was changed from bombers to fighters. Now named Falcon, the AAM-A-2 was to become a missile for use by fighter interceptors (F-89, F-102) against relatively slow flying bombers. In 1951, the USAF began to assign aircraft type designations to its guided missiles, and interceptor missiles were designated as "Fighters". The Falcon became the F-98. The initial XF-98 was designed for use by subsonic interceptors (like e.g. the F-89), and because of the burn characteristics of its rocket motor wasn't capable of launch from supersonic aircraft. Development of the XF-98 was eventually dropped in favour of a supersonic-launch variant, which was briefly designated XF-104 before it became the XF-98A. The XF-98A prototypes were ground-launched aerodynamic and propulsion test vehicles, while the YF-98A test missiles were generally air-launched and incorporated a guidance system. After several years of testing, the first production-representative F-98A was eventually delivered in 1954. In 1955, the USAF stopped using aircraft designations for missiles, and the Falcon was again redesignated. The XF-98A, YF-98A, and F-98A became the XGAR-1, YGAR-1, and GAR-1, respectively.  The GAR-1 was a semi-active radar homing short-range (8 km / 5 miles) intercept missile. It had a Thiokol M58 solid-fuel rocket motor and a rather small 3.4 kg (7.6 lb) high-explosive warhead. It didn't feature a proximity fuze, so the missile had to hit its target to explode. This was not considered a problem for the intended use against large and slow bombers. The GAR-1 became operational with F-89H/J and F-102A interceptors in 1956, and about 4000 GAR-1's were produced.


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