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AIR-2 Genie

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AIR-2 Genie
AIR-2A Genie nuclear air-to-air rocket on an MF-9 Transport Trailer at Hill Aerospace Museum
TypeShort-range air-to-air rocket
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1958–1985
Production history
ManufacturerDouglas Aircraft Company
Mass822 pounds (372.9 kg)
Length9 feet 8 inches (2.95 m)
Diameter17.5 in (444.5 mm)
Wingspan3 ft .4 in (0.9 m)
Warhead1.5 kT nuclear

EngineThiokol SR49
PropellantSolid fuel
6 miles (9.7 km)
Maximum speed Mach 3.3

The Douglas AIR-2 Genie (previous designation MB-1) was an unguided air-to-air rocket with a 1.5 kt W25 nuclear warhead.[1] It was deployed by the United States Air Force (USAF 1957–1985) and Canada (Royal Canadian Air Force 1965–1968, Air Command 1968–1984)[2] during the Cold War. Production ended in 1962 after over 3,000 were made, with some related training and test derivatives being produced later.


A Convair F-106 of the California Air National Guard fires an inert version of the Genie
Plumbbob John nuclear test, the only live test ever of a Genie rocket, on 19 July 1957. Fired from a US Air Force F-89J over Yucca Flats, Nevada Test Site at an altitude of ~15,000 ft (4.5 km).

The interception of Soviet strategic bombers was a major military preoccupation of the late 1940s and 1950s. The revelation in 1947 that the Soviet Union had produced a reverse-engineered copy of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, the Tupolev Tu-4 (NATO reporting name "Bull"), which could reach the continental United States in a one-way attack, followed by the Soviets developing their own atomic bomb in 1949, produced considerable anxiety.

The World War II-age fighter armament of machine guns and cannon were inadequate to stop attacks by massed formations of high-speed bombers. Firing large volleys of unguided rockets into bomber formations was not much better, and true air-to-air missiles were in their infancy. In 1954 Douglas Aircraft began a program to investigate the possibility of a nuclear-armed air-to-air weapon. To ensure simplicity and reliability, the weapon would be unguided, since the large blast radius made precise accuracy unnecessary.

The then top-secret project had various code names, such as Bird Dog, Ding Dong, and High Card. Full-scale development began in 1955, with test firing of inert warhead rockets commencing in early 1956. The final design carried a 1.5-kiloton W25 nuclear warhead and was powered by a Thiokol SR49-TC-1 solid-fuel rocket engine of 162 kN (36,000 lbf) thrust, sufficient to accelerate the rocket to Mach 3.3 during its two-second burn. Total flight time was about 12 seconds, during which time the rocket covered 10 km (6.2 mi). Targeting, arming, and firing of the weapon were coordinated by the launch aircraft's fire-control system. Detonation was by time-delay fuze, although the fuzing mechanism would not arm the warhead until engine burn-out, to give the launch aircraft sufficient time to turn and escape. However, there was no mechanism for disarming the warhead after launch. Lethal radius of the blast was estimated to be about 300 metres (980 ft). Once fired, the Genie's short flight-time and large blast radius made it virtually impossible for a bomber to avoid destruction.[3]

The new rocket entered service with the designation MB-1 Genie in 1957. The first interceptor squadrons to carry the MB-1 declared initial operational capability on 1 Jan. 1957, when a handful of rockets and 15 F-89 interceptors capable of carrying them were deployed at Wurtsmith Air Force Base in northern Michigan and Hamilton Air Force Base outside of San Francisco. By the next year, 268 F-89s had received the necessary wing pylon and fire-control system modifications to carry the weapon. While officially known as the MB-1 Genie, the rocket was often nicknamed "Ding-Dong" by crews and pilots. About 3,150 Genie rockets were produced before production ended in 1963. In 1962 the weapon was redesignated AIR-2A Genie. Many rounds were upgraded with improved, longer-duration rocket motors; the upgraded weapons sometimes known (apparently only semi-officially) as AIR-2B. An inert training round, originally MB-1-T and later ATR-2A, was also produced in small numbers – the training version was known to Canadian crews as the "dum-dum".[4]

An F-89 Scorpion firing the live Genie used in the Plumbbob John test

A live Genie was detonated only once, in Operation Plumbbob on 19 July 1957. It was fired by USAF Captain Eric William Hutchison (pilot) and USAF Captain Alfred C. Barbee (radar operator) flying an F-89J over Yucca Flats. Sources vary as to the height of the blast, but it was between 18,500 and 20,000 ft (5,600 and 6,100 m) above mean sea level.[5] A group of five USAF officers volunteered to stand uncovered in their light summer uniforms underneath the blast to prove that the weapon was safe for use over populated areas. They were photographed by Department of Defense photographer George Yoshitake who stood there with them.[6] Gamma and neutron doses received by observers on the ground were negligible. Doses received by aircrew were highest for the fliers assigned to penetrate the airburst cloud ten minutes after explosion.[7][8]

The Montana Air National Guard F-89J that launched the live Genie.

While in service with the U.S. Air Force, the Genie was carried operationally on the F-89 Scorpion, F-101B Voodoo, and the F-106 Delta Dart. While the Genie was originally intended to be carried by the F-104 Starfighter using a unique 'trapeze' launching rail, the project never proceeded beyond the testing phase. Convair offered an upgrade of the F-102 Delta Dagger that would have been Genie-capable, but it too was not adopted. Operational use of the Genie was discontinued in 1988 with the retirement of the F-106 interceptor.

The only other Genie user was Canada, whose CF-101 Voodoos carried Genies until 1984 via a dual-key arrangement where the missiles were kept under United States custody, and released to Canada under circumstances requiring their use.[2] The RAF briefly considered the missile for use on the English Electric Lightning.

Safety features included final arming by detecting the acceleration and deceleration of a fast aircraft at high altitude. The weapon was built too early to use a permissive action link security device.[2]

The F-89J that was used to launch the only live test is on static display at the Montana Air National Guard in Great Falls, Montana.


CF-101B of the Canadian Forces firing a Genie in 1982
 United States

Surviving examples

Below is a list of museums which have a Genie rocket in their collection:

On 31 January 2024 a dilapidated old rocket, later found to be an inert AIR-2 Genie, was reported to police in the city of Bellevue, Washington after being offered as a donation to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.[11][12]

See also


  1. ^ "Historical Snapshot: MB-1/AIR-2 Genie Missile". Boeing. Retrieved 24 May 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Clearwater, John (1998). Canadian Nuclear Weapons: The Untold Story of Canada's Cold War Arsenal. Toronto: Dundurn Press. ISBN 9781554881215. OCLC 244771111.
  3. ^ Parsch, Andreas (2002). "Douglas AIR-2 Genie". Designation-Systems.Net.
  4. ^ Dorr, Robert F. (1987). McDonnell F-101 Voodoo. Osceola, Wis.: Osprey Pub. ISBN 9780850457520. OCLC 17550154.
  5. ^ SHOTS DIABLO TO FRANKLIN PRIME The Mid-Series Tests of the PLUMBBOB Series 15 JULY – 30 AUGUST 1957 Archived 16 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Five at Ground Zero". CTBTO. 19 July 1957. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  7. ^ Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Public Affairs. Factsheet. Operation Plumbbob. Archived 22 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Attachment 12. Preliminary report. Operation Plumbbob. Nevada Test Site, May-September 1957. Project 2.9 NUCLEAR RADIATION RECEIVED BY AIRCREWS FIRING THE MB-1 ROCKET.
  9. ^ Museum of Aviation Website Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "McDonnell Douglas Air-2A Genie Rocket." National Museum of the United States Air Force. Retrieved: 9 August 2015.
  11. ^ Matza, Max (3 February 2024). "Inert nuclear missile found in US man's garage". BBC News. Retrieved 3 February 2024.
  12. ^ Blatchford, Taylor (2 February 2024). "Police investigate military-grade rocket in Bellevue garage". Seattle Times. Retrieved 3 February 2024.

External links