19 July 1957: During 1957, a series of 29 nuclear weapons tests were carried out at the Nevada Test Site, 65 miles (105 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas under Project Plumbbob. Shot John was the first and only firing of a live nuclear-armed anti aircraft missile.
At 07:00:04.6 a.m., Pacific Daylight Savings Time (14:00 UTC), a U.S. Air Force Northrop F89J Scorpion, 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 its W-25 warhead was detonated by a signal from a ground station. The resulting explosive yield was 1.7 kilotons.
F-89J 53-2547 was built as an F-89D-60-NO Scorpion, and was one of 350 D-models which were upgraded to the F-89J standard. It was a missile-armed all-weather interceptor with a two man crew assigned to the Air Defense Command.
The Northrop F-89D/F-89J Scorpion was 53 feet, 10 inches long (16.408 meters) with a wingspan of 60 feet, 5 inches (18.415 meters) and overall height of 17 feet, 6 inches (5.334 meters). The F-89D had an empty weight of 25,194 pounds ( kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 46,789 pounds ( kilograms).
The Scorpion’s two Allison J35-A-33 engines produced 7,200 pounds of thrust each. The interceptor had a cruise speed of 465 miles per hour (748 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 627 miles per hour (1,009 kilometers per hour) The service ceiling was 49,200 feet (14,996 meters) and maximum range of 1,367 miles (2,200 kilometers).
The F-89J could be armed with two MB-1 Genie rockets, four AIM-4 Falcon guided missiles and 104 2.75-inch FFAR rockets.
F-89s served with the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard from 1948 until 1969. Today, F-89J 53-2547 is on display at the Montana Air National Guard Base, Great Falls, Montana.
The Douglas Aircraft Company MB-1 Genie was an unguided solid-fuel rocket. Its Thiokol SR49-TC-1 engine produced 36,500 pounds of thrust and gave it a maximum speed of Mach 3.3. Its range was 6 miles (9.6 kilometers). The rocket weighed 822 pounds (373 kilograms) with its W-25 warhead, and was 9 feet, 8 inches (2.95 meters) in length. Detonation was by time delay fuse. Lethal radius of the warhead was estimated to be approximately 1,000 feet (300 meters). In production from 1957 to 1962, 3,150 missiles were produced. The Genie was in service from 1957 to 1988. In 1962, the designation was changed from MB-1 to AIR-2A Genie.
The W-25 was a Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory-designed anti-aircraft warhead. It was an unboosted fission design, using both uranium and plutonium. The warhead weighed approximately 220 pounds (100 kilograms).
© 2016, Bryan R. Swopesby