Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Milestone: December 18, 1968, 1st Guided Launch of AGM-65 Maverick

The AGM-65 Maverick completed its first guided launch in December 1969. (U.S. Air Force photo.)

Focus on Defense:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2008 -- On Dec. 18, 1969, U.S. Air Force Missile Development Center crews completed the first guided launch of an air-to-surface television guided missile capable of attacking moving targets at short range. The missile, designated the AGM-65 Maverick, would eventually be carried by a variety of bomber, fighter and attack aircraft. The AGM-65 is a highly accurate, 460-pound air-to-ground missile employed by A-10 and F-16 aircraft.

The AGM-65 Maverick is a tactical, air-to-surface guided missile designed for close air support, interdiction and defense suppression mission. It provides stand-off capability and high probability of strike against a wide range of tactical targets, including armor, air defenses, ships, transportation equipment and fuel storage facilities.

The Maverick is a modular design weapon. A different combination of the guidance package and warhead can be attached to the rocket motor section to produce a different weapon. The Maverick has three different seekers and two different warheads. The solid-rocket motor propulsion section is common to all variants. The seeker options are electro-optical, or EO, imaging, imaging infrared, or IR, or a laser guidance package. The warhead is in the missile's center section.

Either a 125-pound shaped-charge warhead or a 300-pound penetrator warhead can be used. A contact fuse in the nose fires the shaped-charge warhead. The penetrator uses a delayed-fuse, allowing the warhead to penetrate the target with its kinetic energy before firing. The latter is very effective against large, hard targets. The AGM-65 has a cylindrical body with long-chord delta wings and tail control surfaces mounted close to the trailing edge of the wing of the aircraft using it.

As many as six Mavericks can be carried by an aircraft, usually in three round, underwing clusters, allowing the pilot to engage several targets on one mission. The missile also has "launch-and-leave" capability that enables a pilot to fire it and immediately take evasive action or attack another target as the missile guides itself to the target. Mavericks can be launched from high altitudes to tree-top level and can hit targets ranging from a distance of a few thousand feet to 13 nautical miles at medium altitude.

Maverick B models have an electro-optical television guidance system. After the protective dome cover is automatically removed from the nose of the missile and its video circuitry activated, the scene viewed by the guidance system appears on a cockpit television screen. The pilot selects the target, centers cross hairs on it, locks on, and then launches the missile. The Maverick B also has a screen magnification capability that enables the pilot to identify and lock on smaller and more distant targets.

The Maverick D has an imaging infrared guidance system, operated much like that of the A and B models, except that infrared video overcomes the daylight-only, adverse weather limitations of the other system. The infrared Maverick D can track heat generated by a target and provide the pilot a pictorial display of the target during darkness and hazy or inclement weather.

The Maverick E model is the only version having the laser-guided seeker section. It uses the heavyweight penetrator warhead. The U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps are the users of this variant. The Maverick F is a naval variant of the D/G model (IR) currently in use by the U.S. Navy. It also uses the 300-pound penetrator warhead. The Maverick G model essentially has the same guidance system as the D, with some software modifications that track larger targets. The G model's major difference is its heavyweight penetrator warhead, while Maverick B and D models employ the shaped-charge warhead.

Maverick K models are currently in development. They were developed by taking a G model and replacing the IR guidance system with an electro-optical television guidance system.

Maverick K and H models are currently in production. The Maverick K model was developed by taking a G model and replacing the IR guidance system with an electro-optical television guidance system. The Maverick H model was developed by taking a B model and upgrading it to increase its capability.

The Air Force accepted the first AGM-65A Maverick in August 1972. A total of 25,750 A and B Mavericks were purchased by the Air Force. Maverick A's have recently been phased out of the inventory. The Air Force is exploring the possibility of converting phased out A's and near obsolete B's and making an EO version to be named AGM-65H. The software in the H would be upgraded increasing its capability.

The Air Force took delivery of the first AGM-65D in October 1983, with initial operational capability in February 1986. Delivery of operational AGM-65G missiles took place in 1989.

More than 5,000 AGM-65 A/B/D/E/F/G's were employed during Operation Desert Storm, mainly attacking armored targets. Mavericks played a large part in the destruction of Iraq's significant military force.

General Characteristics
Primary Function: Air-to-surface guided missile
Contractors: Raytheon Systems Co.
Power Plant: Thiokol TX-481 solid-propellant rocket motor
Launch Weight: AGM-65B/H, 462 pounds (207.90 kilograms); AGM-65D, 485 pounds (218.25 kilograms); AGM-65E, 777 pounds (353.2 kilograms); AGM-65F, 804 pounds (365.5 kilograms); AGM-65G, 670 pounds (301.50 kilograms); AGM-65K, 793 pounds (360.45 kilograms)
Diameter: 1 foot (30.48 centimeters)
Wingspan: 2 feet, 4 inches (71.12 centimeters)
Range: Classified
Speed: Classified
Aircraft: Used aboard A-10, F-15E and F-16
Guidance System: AGM-65B/H/K, electro-optical television; AGM-65D/F/G, imaging infrared; AGM-65E, laser guided
Warheads: AGM-65B/D/H, 125 pounds (56.25 kilograms), cone shaped; AGM-65E/F/G/K, 300 pounds (135 kilograms) delayed-fuse penetrator, heavyweight
Unit Cost: $17,000 to $110,000 depending on the Maverick variant
Date Deployed: August 1972

(Report from a U.S. Air Force news release.)

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