For this week’s bit of armchair scientific tourism, I present to you an AGM-28 Hound Dog — neither particularly accurate, nor renowned for its reliability, but the best cruise missile ever built that was named for an old Elvis Presley song (it’s at the Air Force Space and Missile Museum, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in Florida):
The Hound Dog was a jet-powered, nuclear tipped cruise missile — originally designated the B-77, then GAM-77, and finally as AGM-28. It was born back in the late 1950′s, when the U.S.’ strategic deterrent was based on manned bombers carrying nuclear bombs.
The Soviet Union responded (not too surprisingly) to the U.S. bomber force by developing and building surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries to defend its major cities and installations. As a counter-move, an array of technologies were developed in parallel — on one hand, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs); on another, “stand-off” weapons that would hopefully be able to sneak through defenses that a much larger bomber couldn’t breach.
The Hound Dog was intended to be one of those stand-off weapons — built to a 1956 requirement for an air-launched supersonic cruise missile, to be carried under the wing of a B-52 bomber. Two companies submitted proposals in response to the Air Force’s plea. Chance Vought proposed a missile based on their Regulus ground-launched cruise missile, while North American Aviation (now a part of Boeing) proposed a derivative of their Navajo missile.
North American won the contract in 1958, delivered the first production model 14 months later, with nearly 700 being built by the end of production in 1963. The AGM-28 was always intended as an interim system, but still suffered from both reliability and accuracy issues. The missile’s guidance was sufficient to get within 2.2 miles of its target 50% of the time — not good, but good for the time’s technology, and good enough for its 4 megaton thermonuclear warhead. The last Hound Dogs were removed from service in 1975 and scrapped within three years. A few dozen of them, like this one (S/N 33792) remain on display at museums and USAF bases scattered across the U.S.