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Bomarc missile launch

The CIM-10 Bomarc (originally IM-99) was the product of the Bomarc Missile Program. The Program was a joint United States of AmericaCanada effort between 1957 and 1972 to protect against the USSR bomber threat. The Bomarc was a joint development with Boeing and Michigan Aeronautical Research Center. It involved the deployment of tactical stations armed with Bomarc missiles along the east and west coasts of North America and the central areas of the continent. BOMARC and the SAGE guidance system were phased out in the early 1970s since they seemed to be ineffective and costly. Neither of these systems was ever used in combat, so while their combat effectiveness remains untested, they are still perceived as having been an important deterrent.

The supersonic Bomarc missiles were the first long-range anti-aircraft missiles in the world. They were capable of carrying conventional or nuclear warheads. Their intended role in defence was in an intrusion prevention perimeter. Bomarcs aligned on the eastern and western coasts of North America would theoretically launch and destroy enemy bombers before the bombers could drop their payloads on industrial regions.


Design and development

A Bomarc missile

The name Bomarc was created by merging the names of two organizations: Boeing 'BO' and the Michigan Aeronautical Research Center 'MARC'. The Program was authorized in 1949 and originally designated F-99, a fighter designation but was quickly redesignated "IM" for Interceptor Missile, retaining the -99 series number.

The "Bomarc IM-99A" was the first production Bomarc missile, test flown in February 1955. It had an operational radius of 200 miles (~320 km) and was designed to fly at Mach 2.5-2.8 at a cruising altitude of 60,000 feet (18.3 km). It was 46.6 ft (14.2 m) long and weighed 15,500 lb (7,020 kg). Its armament was either a 1,000 pound (455 kg) conventional warhead or a W40 nuclear warhead (7-10 kiloton yield). A liquid fuelled rocket engine boosted the Bomarc to Mach 2, when its Marquardt RJ43-MA-3 ramjet engines, fueled by 80-octane gasoline, would take over for the remainder of the flight.

The "Super Bomarc IM-99B" was the 99A's successor, with a solid fuel booster rocket and improvements to its operational parameters. It was capable of striking targets within a radius of 400 miles, and able to fly at Mach 4 as high as 100,000 feet. It was 45 ft (13.7 m) long, weighed 16,000 lb (7,250 kg) with a W40 nuclear warhead as armament.

The Bomarc relied on the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE), an automated control system used by NORAD for detecting, tracking and intercepting enemy bomber aircraft. SAGE allowed for remote launching of the Bomarc missiles, which were housed in a constant combat-ready basis in individual launch shelters in remote areas. At the height of the program, there were 14 Bomarc sites located in the United States and two in Canada.

Boeing built 570 Bomarc missiles between 1957 and 1964, 269 CIM-10A, 301 CIM-10B.[1]

Canada and the Bomarc

The Bomarc Missile Program was highly controversial in Canada. The Progressive Conservative government of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker initially agreed to deploy the missiles, and shortly thereafter controversially scrapped the Avro Arrow, a supersonic manned interceptor aircraft, arguing that the missile program made the Arrow unnecessary.

Initially, it was unclear whether the missiles would be equipped with nuclear warheads. By 1960 it became known that the missiles were to have a nuclear payload, and a debate ensued about whether Canada should accept nuclear weapons. Ultimately, the Diefenbaker government decided that the Bomarcs should be equipped with conventional warheads. The dispute split the Diefenbaker Cabinet, and led to the collapse of the government in 1963. The Opposition Liberal Party argued in favour of accepting nuclear warheads and, after winning the 1963 election, the new Liberal government of Lester Pearson proceeded to accept nuclear-armed Bomarcs, with the first being deployed on 31 December 1963.

Pierre Trudeau, still working as a journalist, attacked Pearson for the decision. While he was forced to reverse himself when he decided to run as a candidate for the Liberals in the 1965 election, he remained unenthusiastic. Shortly after becoming prime minister in 1968, he announced that the missiles would be phased out by 1971.


Although a number of IM-99/CIM-10 Bomarcs have been placed on public display, concerns about the possible environmental hazards of the thoriated magnesium structure of the airframe have resulted in several being removed from public view.[2] Radioactive contamination from a fire at McGuire AFB, N.J., that destroyed an active Bomarc-A airframe on the launch pad on 7 June 1960, resulted in that area remaining off limits to the present day, primarily due to plutonium contamination.[3] However, the nuclear warhead was not activated in this Broken Arrow accident. The site remained in operation for several years following the fire.

Russ Sneddon, director of the USAF Armament Museum, Eglin AFB, Florida provided information about missing CIM-10 exhibit airframe serial 59-2016, one of the museum's original artifacts from its founding in 1975 and donated by the 4751st Air Defense Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Eglin Auxiliary Field 9, Eglin AFB. As of December 2006, the suspect missile was still stored in a secure compound behind the Armaments Museum.


446 SAM Squadron, North Bay, Ontario 1962-1972
447 SAM Squadron, La Macaza, Quebec 1962-1972
 United States
6th Air Defense Missile Squadron (BOMARC-A)
Suffolk County AFB, New York, 1959-1964
22d Air Defense Missile Squadron (BOMARC-A/B)
Langley AFB, Virginia (1960-1972)
26th Air Defense Missile Squadron (BOMARC-A/B)
Otis AFB, Massachusetts, 1960-1972
30th Air Defense Missile Squadron (BOMARC-A)
Dow AFB, Maine, 1960-1964
35th Air Defense Missile Squadron (BOMARC-B)
Niagara Falls International Airport, New York, 1961-1969
37th Air Defense Missile Squadron (BOMARC-B)
Kincheloe AFB, Michigan, 1961-1972
46th Air Defense Missile Squadron (BOMARC-A/B)
McGuire AFB, New Jersey, 1959-1972
74th Air Defense Missile Squadron (BOMARC-B)
Duluth International Airport, Minnesota, 1960-1972

Locations under construction but not activated: Camp Adair, Oregon; Charleston AFB, South Carolina; Ethan Allen AFB, Vermont; Paine Field, Washington; Travis AFB, California; Truax Field, Wisconsin; Vandenberg AFB, California

Reference for BOMARC units and locations:[4]

Surviving Missiles

Bomarc B on display at the Canada Aviation Museum Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, c. 2006.

Below is a list of museums or sites which have a Bomarc missile on display:

See also

Related development




  1. ^ Gibson 1996, p. 199.
  2. ^ a b Young, Gord. "Cold War relic on the move." North Bay Nugget, 12 September 2009. Retrieved: 24 December 2009.
  3. ^ Gambardello, Joseph A. "Plutonium Spill Neither Gone Nor Forgotten, 40 Years Later." The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1 June 2000, p. A01. Retrieved: 26 December 2009.
  4. ^ "Bomarc Missile Sites.", Retrieved: 26 December 2009.


  • Clearwater, John. Canadian Nuclear Weapons. Toronto: Dundern Press, 1999. ISBN 1-55002-299-7.
  • Gibson, James N. Nuclear Weapons of the United States - An Illustrated History . Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1996, ISBN 0-7643-0063-6.
  • Nicks, Don, John Bradley and Chris Charland. A History of the Air Defence of Canada 1948-1997. Ottawa: Commander Fighter Group, 1997. ISBN 0-9681973-0-2.
  • Pedigree of Champions: Boeing Since 1916, Third Edition. Seattle, WA: The Boeing Company, 1969.

External links


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