California State Military Department
The California State Military Museum
Preserving California's Military Heritage
California and the Cold War
BOMARC in California
TSgt Mark Morgan, USAF
Historian, Western Air Defense Sector
 
The BOMARC Missile (Boeing)

IM-99/CIM-10A/B BOMARC - The BOMARC program was the Air Force's contribution to air defense missile systems and dated to Boeing's 1946 GAPA - Ground-to-Air Pilotless Aircraft - program. What resulted was a large, nuke-tipped missile in two types that reached alert status in the northeast and Great Lakes regions during the late 1950s.

Boeing received authorization to develop the XF-99 in 1949 and subsequently joined with the University of Michigan's Aeronautical Research Center (MARC) to field pre-production models. Testing started on the prototype missiles in June 1952 but the first launch didn't occur until 10 September 1952; from that point through 1958 there were hits than misses with the test missiles rarely working as advertised.

The initial production version was the IM-99A/CIM-10A BOMARC A which measured 45'3" in length and had a wingspan of 18'2". The missile carried both conventional and nuclear warheads - a W-40 with 10 Kt yield - and used an Aerojet-General liquid-fueled booster and twin Marquardt 10,000-lbst ramjets. The range was 230 miles at 60,000-feet altitude with initial guidance via the SAGE system; about 100 miles from the target the missile would switch to its own internal homer for the terminal phase. On 2 October 1957 an A-model launched from Cape Canaveral passed within kill distance of an X-10 Navaho traveling at Mach 2+ at 48,000-feet; notably, the SAGE production site at Kingston, NY controlled the intercept.

As with Nike Ajax and the first-generation ICBMs, the liquid fuel proved a problem for BOMARC A. Prior to missile erection and firing it took about two minutes to completely fuel and prepare the missile. Subsequently Boeing developed the solid-fueled B-model; this one measured 43'9" in length with a wingspan of 18'2" and used a Thiokol 50,000-lbst solid-fuel booster along with improved Marquardt 14,000-lbst ramjets. The resulting missile went 440 miles at an altitude of 100,000-feet and required only 30 seconds to spin up, erect and fire.

In September 1958 Air Research & Development Command decided to transfer the BOMARC program from Cape Canaveral to a new facility on Santa Rosa Island, immediately south of Hurlburt Field on the Gulf of Mexico. To operate the facility and to provide training and operational evaluation in the missile program, Air Defense Command established the 4751st Air Defense Wing (Missile) on 15 January 1958. The first launch from Santa Rosa -from one of the huge, complicated Type I shelters - took place on 15 January 1959. The first all-up BOMARC B test launch came on 13 April 1960 and on 3 March 1961 an IM-99B hit a target at over 400 miles at 80,000 feet.

By that date BOMARC was already in the field, although not exactly at all the locations ADC originally desired. The command's initial plans called for some 52 sites around the country with 120 missiles each but as defense budgets decreased during the 1950s the number of sites dropped substantially. Ongoing development and reliability problems didn't help; nor did Congressional debate over the missile's usefulness and necessity in comparison to the Nike program. One house supported Nike while the other supported BOMARC and apparently neither body was able to understand the concept complimentary air defense missile systems. In June 1959 the Air Force authorized 16 BOMARC sites with 56 missiles each; the initial five would get the IM-99A with the remainder getting the IM-99B while work immediately stopped at Truax Field and Ethan Allen AFB (sites numbers six and nine under the 1958 plan):

46th ADMS
6th ADMS
26th ADMS
30th ADMS
22nd ADMS
37th ADMS
74th ADMS
35th ADMS
28th ADMS
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----
----
----
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446 SAM Sqdn (RCAF)
447 SAM Sqdn (RCAF)
4751st ADMS(M)
McGuire AFB
Suffolk County AFB
Otis AFB
Dow AFB
Langley AFB
Kinross/Kincheloe AFB
Duluth AB
Niagara Falls AP
Paine AFB
Adair AFS
Travis AFB
Vandenberg AFB
Malmstrom AFB
Glasgow AFB
Minot AFB
Charleston AFB
North Bay, ON
La Macaza, PQ
Hurlburt Field
28 IM-99A/56 IM-99B
56 IM-99A
28 IM-99A/28 IM-99B
28 IM-99A
28 IM-99A/28 IM-99B
28 IM-99B
28 IM-99B
56 IM-99B
28 IM-99B
28 IM-99B
28 IM-99B
28 IM-99B
28 IM-99B
28 IM-99B
28 IM-99B
28 IM-99B
28 IM-99B
28 IM-99B
Operational test/training
1959-1972
1959-1964
1960-1972
1960-1964
1960-1972
1961-1972
1960-1972
1961-1969
cancelled
cancelled
cancelled
cancelled
cancelled
cancelled
cancelled
cancelled
1962-1972
1962-1972
1958-1979

 

However, in March 1960 HQ USAF cut deployment to eight sites in the US and two in Canada (the latter was part of the final resolution of Canada's decision to cancel the CF-105 Arrow). ADC protested to no avail and work immediately stopped on the western sites that were in various stages of completion (the facility at Paine AFB was complete and ready for missiles). The first BOMARC As went operational at McGuire on 19 September 1959 with Kincheloe AFB getting the first operational IM-99Bs. While several of the squadrons replicated earlier fighter interceptor unit numbers, they were all new organizations with no previous historical counterpart.

On June 7, 1960 a BOMARC A with nuclear warhead caught fire at McGuire AFB following the explosive rupture of its onboard helium tank. While the missile's explosives didn't detonate the heat melted the warhead, releasing plutonium which the fire crews then spread around. The Air Force and AEC cleaned up the site and covered it with concrete; fortunately, this was the only major incident involving BOMARC.

In 1962 the Air Force started using modified A-models as drones; following the October 1962 tri-service redesignation of aircraft and weapons systems they became CQM-10As. Otherwise - and like their ARADCOM brethren who made the annual trek to Fort Bliss - the air defense missile squadrons maintained alert while making regular trips to Santa Rosa Island for training and firing practice. After the inactivation of the 4751st ADW(M) on 1 July 1962 and transfer of Hurlburt to Tactical Air Command for air commando operations the 4751st Air Defense Squadron (Missile) remained at Hurlburt and Santa Rosa Island for training purposes.

The BOMARC A-only sites at Dow and Suffolk County closed first, in 1964. The remainder soldiered on for several more years while the government started dismantling the air defense missile network. Niagara Falls was the first BOMARC B installation to close, in December 1969; the others remained on alert through 1972. Notably, due to the accident the McGuire complex has never been sold or converted to other uses and remains in Air Force ownership, making it the most intact site of the eight in the United States. It has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Sites.

Travis AFB BOMARC - According to the old Air Force drawings I have of the Travis facility it was planned as a standard 28-missile CIM-10B facility with foundations already laid for the shelters and several of the buildings. What I found was the Dixon High School Farm, complete with a gentleman named John Ramos who was quite aware of the site's former significance and thrilled to learn some Air Force guy had come all the way from Washington to document it.



What's left of the cancelled site? Quite a bit surprisingly, in and around the odd cow, sheep, barn and high school students learning animal husbandry. The boundary wall foundations for the missile maintenance/assembly building are in place and obvious and if you move south into the field you'll find the broken up remains of one of the missile shelter floors. There's some evidence of other shelter construction but - not surprisingly - the remains are pretty well gone.

I thanked John, promised him a copy of my notes, got my photos and departed. The street address for the cx'd fac is 5750 Seviers Road, Dixon, CA 95620 (Visit date: 12 Mar 02).

Vandenberg BOMARC - ADC's final 1958 "we're serious about this" BOMARC deployment plan resulted in the start of construction at four locations on the west coast: Paine AFB, WA; Camp Adair, OR; Travis AFB, CA; and Vandenberg AFB. As noted in previous TRs all four were in various stages of completion at the time of the program's cutback to the northeast in 1960, with Paine AFB near Everett apparently complete and ready to receive IM-99Bs. The VAFB site subsequently became a trailer park; Greg noted it was the last USAF trailer park in Air Force Space Command and had only recently been cleared off.

 

So what did we find? A grand total of 28 missile shelter foundations, much to our surprise. I looked at them, got out, took pictures, prowled around and told Greg, "This is definitely the place! Apparently the Air Force put trailers on top of each pad and added a substantial number of other parking spots to the immediate southeast, but the 28 - four rows of seven each which is the appropriate layout for a BOMARC B squadron - were very thick, had 10-inch-wide reinforced concrete curbs on the side and mounting bolts/hardware in the deck. The pits at the rear of each foundation were filled in with dirt and most had plants in them.

Elsewhere on the property are a water tower and a few other foundations, although I didn't see any single large plot of concrete to indicate the planned location of the asembly/maintenance building. The site is located at 34.7304N/120.5042W. Way cool; I'd rate this one as the most recognizable of the four west coast BOMARC sites.

Vandenberg BOMARC T&E - The two BOMARC Type II (I think; they may be the all-aluminum Type IVs) are 1300 yards northwest of ICBM site 576B on the south side of the road, are intact - with a third support building in between the two shelters - and in excellent shape. The structures are at 34.8010N/120.5980W; my "tour guide" Greg noted the site still had power - the rotating green light on top of the phone pole was going - and pointed out each missile bay had multiple lightning rods. Ron Plante took a look at the digital photos I took, noticed a placard and determined the base probably uses the buildings for ord/explosives storage.

Vandenberg launched the birds strictly as targets with the first launch of a CQM-10A BOMARC A taking place on 25 August 1966. The last two launches of CQM-10Bs as targets for a Navy test program occurred on 14 July 1982 (28 Dec 02).

The BOMARC Missile
 

The supersonic Bomarc missiles (IM-99A and IM-99B) were the world's first long-range anti-aircraft missiles, and the first missiles that Boeing mass produced. The program also represented the first time Boeing designed and built launch facilities. It used analog computers, some of which were built by Boeing and had been developed for GAPA experiments during World War II.

Authorized by the Air Force in 1949, Bomarc was the result of coordinated research between Boeing (Bo) and the University of Michigan Aeronautical Research Center (marc).

The missiles were housed on a constant combat-ready basis in individual launch shelters in remote areas. The alert signal could fire the missiles around the country in 30 seconds. The Model A had a range of 200 miles, and the B, which followed, could fly 400 miles. Boeing built 700 Bomarc missiles between 1957 and 1964, as well as 420 launch systems. Bomarc was retired from active service during the early 1970s.

First flight: February 24, 1955
Military designation: IM-99A/IM-99B
Classification: Missile
Wingspan: 18 feet 2 inches
Diameter: 35 inches
Length: 45 feet
Approx. takeoff weight: 16,000 pounds
Top speed: More than Mach 2.5
Range: More than 400 miles (IM-99B)
Ceiling: More than 80,000 feet
Power: 50,000-pound-thrust solid rocket (takeoff); two 12,000-pound-thrust Marquardt ramjet engines (cruise)
Armament: Nuclear warhead

 


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