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B-47 takeoff with Bold Orion.jpg
A B-47 takes off carrying a Bold Orion ALBM, developed under WS-199
Type Experimental missile program
Place of origin  United States
Service history
In service 1957-1959
Used by Strategic Air Command
Production history
Variants Bold Orion, High Virgo, Alpha Draco

Weapons System 199 (WS-199) was a weapons development program conducted by the United States Air Force to research and develop new strategic weapons systems for Strategic Air Command. Two air-launched and one ground-launched vehicles were developed as part of the program; while none entered production, they assisted in the development of both the GAM-87 Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile and that of re-entry vehicles for ballistic missiles.

WS-199A[edit | edit source]

The designation WS-199A was applied to Strategic Air Command's overall studies of future requirements, that were tested using the hardware developed under the other WS-199 subprojects.[1] Receiving Congressional approval in 1957, the WS-199 project would award contracts to three different companies to develop experimental designs for new, hypersonic weapons. Although none of the weapons were planned to be operational, in an emergency they could be quickly developed for combat service.[2]

WS-199B Bold Orion[edit | edit source]

Developed by Martin Aircraft, the Bold Orion missile was an air-launched ballistic missile, launched from the B-47 Stratojet medium bomber, with flight tests being carried out in 1958 and 1959. Early launches of the Bold Orion as a single-stage vehicle were unsuccessful, however a redesign as a two-stage weapon produced improved results, with the remainder of the 12-launch series establishing the ALBM as a viable vehicle. The final test flight trialed the Bold Orion missile as an anti-satellite missile, passing within 4 miles (6.4 km) of Explorer VI,[1] the first-ever interception of a satellite.[3]

WS-199C High Virgo[edit | edit source]

Developed by Lockheed Aircraft, the High Virgo missile was developed as a single-stage air-launched ballistic missile, launched from the B-58 Hustler supersonic bomber. Four test flights were conducted during 1958 and 1959, of which two were successful;[1] the final launch of the program tested the missile in the anti-satellite role, but suffered telemetry failure.[4] The results of the Bold Orion and High Virgo tests assisted in the development of the WS-138 specification, which became the GAM-87 Skybolt ALBM.[1]

WS-199D Alpha Draco[edit | edit source]

Developed by McDonnell Aircraft, the Alpha Draco missile was an experimental, ground-launched, two-stage missile that conducted research on re-entry vehicles and the boost-glide principle of reentry.[1] Three launches of the vehicle were conducted during 1959, of which two were successful.[5]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Parsch 2005
  2. Yengst 2010, p.37.
  3. Peebles 1997, p. 65.
  4. Yenne 2005, p.67.
  5. Yengst 2010, p.39.

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