Sunday, March 15, 2009

XASM-N-8 Corvus Missile


In the late 1950s, even as the Polaris program was gaining urgency, the US Navy was still committed to maintaining a nuclear deterrent force built at least partially around carrier-based aircraft. The arrival of the North American A3J/A-5 Vigilante bomber would bring this strike force to the forefront of aviation technology, but even the Mach-2 Vigilantes would have a hard time against new Soviet air defenses. This led to the Navy instituting the Corvus program, the aim of which was to arm naval aircraft with a long range, nuclear capable anti-radar weapon.

Corvus materialized as a missile with swept wings and four tail surfaces, powered by a liquid rocket over a range well exceeding 100 miles. Had it entered service, Corvus would have been fitted with a W40 warhead. The first reported launching took place on July 18, 1959, when an A4D fired an example off the coast of California. Corvus was soon after canceled due to budgetary pressure. SAC is also reported to have evidenced interest in the missile, but this came to nothing. However, the abandonment of Corvus hardly meant an end to Navy interest in ARMs, as the new threat of surface to air missiles led to the development of a shorter range tactical missile, the AGM-45 Shrike, using the airframe of the AIM-7 Sparrow AAM.

Photo of a Skywarrior with a Corvus underwing
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