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Douglas XGAM87 Skybolt

Serial No: n/a
Period: Post-WWII
Reference: 1987/0048/O
Museum: Cosford
Location: National Cold War Exhibition
On Display: Yes

In 1958 several US contractors demonstrated to the USAF that large ballistic vehicles could be launched from strategic bombers at high altitude. The contractors argued that this alternative means of ballistic missile launch overcame the vulnerability of fixed silo launch sites.
In response, the USAF requested specific Air Launched Ballistic Missile, (ALBM) design proposals. As a result, Douglas Aircraft received the prime contract to develop an ALBM, the project initially being known as GAM-87. In 1960 the project was renamed Skybolt and Douglas sub-contracted to Northrop, Aerojet and General Electric.

Prime Minister MacMillan met President Eisenhower and agreed to purchase Skybolt for the RAF. As a result of this agreement the British project, ‘Bluestreak’, was cancelled.

The Avro Vulcan began compatibility trials in 1961, with a Skybolt under each wing. However in December 1961 the project was cancelled by President Kennedy, leaving the UK searching for an alternative. US Secretary of State McNamara persuaded Britain to buy the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) Polaris. Thus the British Independent Nuclear Deterrent was passed from the Royal Air Force to the Royal Navy.

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