Military Aviation

Video shows F-89 Scorpion interceptor conducting the first and only live test of a USAF AIR-2 Genie nuclear-tipped air-to-air rocket

Taken on Jul. 19, 1957 the video in this post features a USAF Northrop F-89J Scorpion conducting the first and only live test of a USAF Genie rocket with a nuclear warhead.

Taken on Jul. 19, 1957 the video in this post features a US Air Force (USAF) Northrop F-89J Scorpion conducting the first and only live test of a USAF Genie rocket with a nuclear warhead.

According to This Day In Aviation “On Friday morning, Jul. 19, 1957, a United States Air Force Northrop F-89J Scorpion interceptor, serial number 53-2547, flown by Captain Eric W. Hutchison, Pilot, and Captain Alfred C. Barbee, Radar Intercept Officer, launched a Genie MB-1 unguided rocket at an altitude of 18,500 feet (5,640 meters) over NTS Area 10.

“The rocket accelerated to Mach 3 and traveled 2.6 miles (4,250 meters) in 4.5 seconds when, at 07:00:04.6 a.m., Pacific Daylight Savings Time (14:00 UTC), its W-25 warhead was detonated by a signal from a ground station. The resulting explosive yield was 1.7 kilotons.”

Northrop designed the F-89 as an all-weather fighter-interceptor for the Air Defense Command. With the radar operator in the rear seat guiding the pilot, the F-89 could locate, intercept and destroy enemy aircraft by day or night under all types of weather conditions. The first F-89 made its initial flight in August 1948 and deliveries to the Air Force began in July 1950. Northrop produced a total of 1,050 F-89s for the Air Force.

F-89J Scorpion

Northrop converted 350 F-89Ds to J models, Air Defense Command’s first fighter-interceptor to carry nuclear armament. Powered by two Allison J35 engines, each capable of producing 7,200 pounds thrust with afterburner, the F-89J had a cruising speed of 465 mph.

The AIR-2A Genie is an air-to-air rocket with a nuclear warhead designed for use against formations of enemy bombers. It has no guidance system and is powered by a solid-propellant rocket motor. The AIR-2 (formerly known as the MB-1) was first test-launched in 1956 and became operational in January 1957.

The AIR-2A was carried primarily by F-89J, F-101B and F-106A interceptor aircraft. Thousands were built for the USAF before production ended in 1962; they remained in service until the mid-1980s. A training version of the Genie with an inert rocket motor and no nuclear warhead, known as the ATR-2, was also in service.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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