AGM-12 Bullpup Radio-Guided Missile


AGM-12B Bullpup A at National Air Force Museum

AGM-12B Bullpup A at National Air Force Museum

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AGM-12 Bullpup Missile  |  Specs

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AGM-12 Bullpup Missile

AGM-12C Bullpup B Air-to-Ground Missile

The Bullpup concept emerged from the aftermath of the Korean War when the inadequacy of bridge busting options became clear. Designated ASM-N-7 the Bullpup first saw service overseas in April 1959 when FJ-4B Furies of VA-212 deployed on the USS Lexington to join the Seventh fleet in the Pacific. An improved version the ASM-N-7A, appeared in 1960 and was redesignated AGM-12B Bullpup A in 1962. A short-range radio guided air-to-ground missile, the AGM-12 Bullpup was developed for the US Navy by Martin Marietta. It was, notably, the first air-to-surface guided weapon produced in large numbers. The Bullpup A weighed about 569 lb (258 kg) and was propelled by a rocket motor with 12,000 lbs (53 kN) of thrust. It also had a rather modest-sized warhead of 250 lb (110 kg) - this would prove to be an issue.

As part of a larger attack on 3 April 1965 F-105 Thunderchiefs launched 32 AGM-12 Bullpups against the Thanh Hoa Bridge, the Dragon's Jaw, The Bullpup made little impression on the huge metal and concrete structure with pilot's reporting that some of the missiles simply 'bounced off' the bridge. Manual command to line of sight (MCLOS) guidance meant that the pilot would track a flare in the tail of the weapon using a small control stick. This sent radio control signals to the missile but the system was limited by human sight and it demanded the aircraft fly a straight, predictable flight path - ever closer to the target and into the 'teeth' of any anti-aircraft artillery. The AGM-12C Bullpup B soon appeared with a larger warhead of 970 lb (440 kg) and a more powerful rocket motor for greater range. Yet, the limits of the weapon were clear and the larger warhead proved insufficient against hardened or substantial targets. The Bullpup was still useful and could damage or take out many smaller targets. The Air Force used the Bullpup as well, with 1,944 of the missiles seeing use during Operation Rolling Thunder (March 1965 – October 1968) by the USAF against targets in North Vietnam (NVN.)

A nuclear option became available with the USAF sponsored AGM-12D variant, originally designated GAM-83B. The weapon was based on the AGM-12B Bullpup A but with a larger diameter to accommodate a nuclear warhead. The W45 tactical nuclear warhead with a yield of 1-15 kilotons could optionally be fitted instead of a conventional warhead. The intention being that nuclear Bullpups could overwhelm formations of Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks so that outnumbered NATO forces could successfully counterattack. In any case, the AGM-12D is retired from active service in 1978.

The AGM-12E came into service in mid-1969 with a cluster bomb warhead made up of 800-830 BLU-26/B bomblets, some 840 AGM-12E Bullpups were produced. This weapon's intended target were anti-aircraft artillery sites.

AGM-12E Bullpup warhead: 800-830 BLU-26/B bomblets

The BLU-26/B is a baseball sized bomblet (submunition) primarily anti-personnel in nature with a limited anti-materiel capability mainly good against soft-skinned vehicles and structures. Made of two die-cast aluminum hemispheres joined together by a crimp strap, the BLU-26/B also features aerodynamic flutes along the surface. These catch the airstream and cause the submunition to spin, the resulting centrifugal force arms the BLU-26/B as it falls. The bomblet has embedded steel balls as pre-made shrapnel. Upon impact approximately 85 grams (0.19 lb) of an explosive charge sends the steel balls out in all directions at very high speed, this along with the blast and concussion from the explosion causes damage. The BLU-26/B was widely used in Southeast Asia, in the CBU-24/B and CBU-49/B cluster bombs, for example, each of which contains 665 BLU-26/B submunitions. Although in the case of the CBU-49/B the BLU-26/B bomblets are designated BLU-59/B - being externally identical to the BLU-26/B but with a time delay fuze. This left the BLU-59/B to explode at a random time, hindering the enemy and denying them the area for a period of time. This harrassment strategy worked but to get a hard kill against an AAA site you had to use a laser guided bomb or Rockeye II cluster bombs.

Source: "Review of the BLU-63/B Bomblet Program", Department of the Air Force, January 1972

Source for technical data: Collective Awareness to Unexploded Ordnance (CAT-UXO)

Click here to see full specifications of the Bullpup Missile.


A-4E Skyhawk over Vietnam with Bullpup missile

A-4E Skyhawk over Vietnam with Bullpup missile


Specifications for AGM-12 Bullpup Missile

NameAGM-12B Bullpup AAGM-12C Bullpup BAGM-12E
TypeShort Range Air-to-Ground Missile
ManufacturerMartin Marietta, W.L. Maxson
Cost???
In Combat1965??
# Used in Combat???
PropulsionLR58-RM-4 rocket 12,000 lbs (53 kN) thrust 1LR62-RM-2/4 rocket 30,000 lbs (130 kN) thrust 1?
GuidanceLine-of-sight radio command
Warhead250 lb (110 kg)970 lb (440 kg) 2800-830 BLU-26/B bomblets 3
Total Weight569 lb (258 kg)1785 lb (810 kg)?
Length10 ft 6 in (3.20 m)13 ft 7 in (4.14 m)?
Diameter12 in (30 cm)18 in (46 cm)?
Wing Span37 in (0.94 m)48 in (1.22 m)?
Range6 nm (11 km)17,600 yards (16095 m) 4?
SpeedMach 1.8 (1365 mph)

1 Thiokol (Reaction Motors) rocket with storable liquid-fuel.
2 Impact-fused high-explosive/fragmentation
3 AGM-12E was based on the AGM-12C, but with an anti-personnel cluster bomb warhead.
4 Info from "A Compendium of Armaments and Military Hardware" by Christopher Chant

Estimates vary by source, especially range and cost.

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Research and Sources

"Operation Linebacker I 1972 The first high-tech air war" by Marshall L. Michel III, Osprey publishing (ePub edition), 2019
"Rolling Thunder 1965-1968 Vietnam's most controversial air campaign" by Richard P. Hallion, Osprey publishing (ePub edition), 2018
"Linebacker The Untold Story of the Air Raids over North Vietnam" by Karl J. Eschmann, Lume Books (Kindle edition), 2018
"The Long Road to Desert Storm and Beyond" by Major Donald L. Blackwelder, School Of Advanced Airpower Studies, May 1992
"Second Generation Weaponry in SEA", HQ PACAF Directorate, Tactical Evaluation Project CHECO SEA Report, 10 September 1970
"Linebacker Operations September - December 1972", Project CHECO Office of History HQ PACAF 31 December 1978


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Links

Southeast Asia War Gallery of National Air Force Museum

Getting Closer: Precision Guided Weapons in the Southeast Asia War (National Air Force Museum)

National Archives Catalog



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