Air Force News

Chief calls CALCM a 'very good capability'

Released: 6 May 1999

by Staff Sgt. Michael Dorsey
Air Force Print News

WASHINGTON -- Briefing Pentagon reporters April 30 on Air Force efforts in NATO's Operation Allied Force, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan said the conventional air-launched cruise missile is a good weapon.

"It has worked very well for us over there," said the general, "and that's why we're going to build more.

"We have funding in right now to build 95," he said. He also said another request for about 230 more is in the works.

The chief also told reporters the Air Force has accelerated these purchases so new missiles will be delivered this year, instead of late 2000. "We want to build more after that," he said. "It's just a question on that buy of whether we go with new or used."

This accelerated delivery schedule is due to recent changes in the original CALCM production plan.

A $41.3 million contract awarded to Boeing will convert 95 excess air-launched cruise missiles to Block I conventional ALCMs. Deliveries to the Air Force begin in November, eight months sooner than originally planned.

The original Air Force plan after Operation Desert Fox called for converting excess ALCMs to a new CALCM Block 1A configuration, which included improved guidance and anti-jam capability. Software development for the Block 1A configuration would have delayed the new CALCMs until July 2000.

However, continued CALCM use in Allied Force changed Air Force strategy. In late March, Air Force leaders decided to replace the expended missiles with duplicates of the current CALCM configuration. This reduced production time.

The Air Force received approval from Congress on April 20 to reprogram $51.5 million from the Titan program for the CALCM Block I contract. Besides the 95 missiles, the Air Force also requested funds for 227 more missile bodies through a $178.2 million emergency supplemental proposal to Congress. This would pay back the original $51.5 million borrowed from the Titan space program.

B-52s launched 90 CALCMs during Operation Desert Fox, according to Lt. Col. Jim Herring, chief of Air Force bomber weapons requirements. The colonel said CALCMs remain a weapon of choice in Operation Allied Force.

"The CALCM brings a tremendous payload to the fight with minimal risk to our aircrews and aircraft," Herring said. He added that CALCM is a near-precision weapon that greatly limits collateral damage to civilian sites near military targets.

The colonel said the 3,000-pound-class warhead on the Block I is exceptional for hitting soft, fixed targets such as surface-to-air missile sites and command-and-control facilities at a low risk to aircrews. He also said it is a force enabler that sets up other weaponry for follow-on attacks from allied aircraft.

The small, winged AGM-86 body for both missiles enhances the performance of the B-52. Today's C-model of the AGM-86 is the conventional weapon that stems from the nuclear B model.

CALCMs became operational in January 1991. When carried on the B-52, the AGM-86C uses an onboard Global Positioning System and inertial navigation system to guide itself to the target.

Weapons builders from Detachment 1 of the 608th Air Operations Group, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., plan the routes for each CALCM using software similar to STRATCOM's ALCMs.

Det. 1 Commander Lt. Col. Gary Brand said the contract would not change the operations tempo for his 27 officers, airmen, contract workers and civilians. His unit builds missiles after the theater commander determines how many he needs to hit certain targets.

Weapons loaders also aren't affected by the contract reprogramming. According to Master Sgt. John Sprunk, a weapons standardization superintendent at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Block I missiles carry more impact, but regardless of the configuration, load time stays the same.

"Bombers are very challenging," said Sprunk, a 17-year veteran whose experience includes F-16s and A-10s. "They can carry everything a fighter carries plus more -- and in larger quantities."


Check Crisis in Kosovo for more Operation Allied Force news.

* Air-Launched Cruise Missile
* B-52 Stratofortress
* Gen. Michael E. Ryan