CIM-10 Bomarc: The First Operational Long-Range SAM Ever Developed

Photo Credit: United States Air Force / The 6555th Missile and Space Launches Through 1970 / Mark C. Cleary, Chief Historian 45th Space Wing Office of History / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Photo Credit: United States Air Force / The 6555th Missile and Space Launches Through 1970 / Mark C. Cleary, Chief Historian 45th Space Wing Office of History / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The United States was in a strange position following the end of the Second World War. Not only was this an era that saw rapid advancements in the development of weapons of war, but the country also found itself at odds with the Soviet Union, a former Ally. As a form of protection, the military approved the development of the CIM-10 Bomarc, the first operational long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) and the only one ever deployed by the US Air Force.

The United States wanted to check the Soviet Union’s power

Dwight D. Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev shaking hands
US President Dwight Eisenhower and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. (Photo Credit: CORBIS / Getty Images)

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had proven just how much devastation nuclear bombings could cause. As a result, the world’s powers began focusing more energy on the development of their own nuclear weaponry. The US was particularly focused on defending against Russian jets that might enter the country’s airspace.

Boeing began developing surface-to-air missiles for the US Army Air Forces. By 1950, the company had developed more than 100 different rockets to test. Eventually, the Michigan Aerospace Research Center (MARC) joined the project, leading to the creation of the IM-99 Weapon System – later known as the CIM-10 Bomarc.

Testing of the missile continued throughout the 1950s. Following a successful test in 1957, both companies received a contract from the US Air Force to officially begin production.

The IM-99 Weapon System moves into production

Four CIM-10 Bomarc missiles in a launch position
The IM-99A Weapon System. (Photo Credit: USAF / National Museum of the US Air Force / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

The IM-99A Weapon System had an operational radius of 200 miles and could rise to a cruising altitude of 60,000 feet. It reached speeds of between Mach 2.5 and 2.8, which was achieved through the use of a liquid-fueled rocket engine and its Marquardt RJ43-MA-3 ramjet. The SAM could also be equipped with one of two warheads: the W40, which had a nuclear yield of seven to 10 kilotons, or a 1,000-pound conventional warhead.

However, there were drawbacks. The Marquardt RJ43-MA-3 ramjet took nearly two minutes to fuel, which might as well be a lifetime in urgent situations. As well, the fuel was very hazardous.

Researchers continued to improve the design and, before long, a second version was built, featuring an updated ramjet and a new propulsion system. Known as the IM-99B Bomarc B, it had its first successful test in June 1961, after which it became operational. It became the first SAM to feature pulse doppler aviation radar and, similar to its predecessor, was equipped with a W40 nuclear warhead. Before long, the weapon was sent to Air Force bases across the US and even Canada.

Working with Canada

Four CIM-10 Bomarc missiles set in a launch position
Like America, Canada also hoped to defend itself with CIM-10 Bomarc missiles. (Photo Credit: Dominique BERRETTY / Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images)

The US worked with Canada to deploy the CIM-10 Bomarc. However, this was incredibly controversial, as most Canadians didn’t want nuclear weapons stationed in the country.

In 1963, Lester B. Pearson ran for prime minister, with a large part of his platform centering around acceptance of the missiles. He wound up being quite popular and won the election. Shortly after, his wife resigned from her position within the anti-nuclear weapons group, Voice of Women.

The CIM-10 Bomarc’s deployment in Canada resulted in the creation of two dedicated Surface/Air Missile squadrons. However, over the next decade, the SAM slowly became obsolete, as the system no longer met modern requirements. As such, in 1972, those equipped by the Royal Canadian Air Force were stood down.

The CIM-10 Bomarc didn’t work all that great

CIM-10 Bomarc being deployed
The CIM-10 Bomarc soon became obsolete. (Photo Credit: HUM Images / Universal Images Group / Getty Images)

While there were some successful tests of the CIM-10 Bomarc, there were also many issues. In 1960, there was an accident at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey. The SAM’s onboard helium tank exploded, and while the warhead itself didn’t detonate, it did melt and there was a major plutonium spill.

The Bomarc was also slow to keep up with new aircraft technology. By the mid-to-late 1960s, it became clear the missiles couldn’t keep up with new advancements; as bombers and fighters became faster, the need for a missile to target slower aircraft became less and less. As a result, the decision was eventually made to discontinue the program, in favor of other SAMs.

CIM-10 Bomarc’s legacy

The Beau-Marks standing with their instruments
The Beau-Marks, a Canadian band, had some minor hits in the 1950s. (Photo Credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

While the CIM-10 Bomarc was never formally used, the missile left its mark. The trials and tribulations of creating the SAM resulted in better research methods, and while it became obsolete, it helped scientists understand how to create more effective ballistic weapons.

Many of the missiles are now on display at museums across the US and Canada. Sites with surviving CIM-10 Bomarcs include the Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia; the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Nebraska; and the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

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The SAM also provided inspiration for bands in both America and Canada. In the US, a group called the Bomarcs, primarily made up of military service members, emerged in Florida, while in Canada, a group called The Beau-Marks had a couple of hits in the late 1950s and early ’60s.

Todd Neikirk

Todd Neikirk is a New Jersey-based politics, entertainment and history writer. His work has been featured in,, and He enjoys sports, politics, comic books, and anything that has to do with history.

When he is not sitting in front of a laptop, Todd enjoys soaking up everything the Jersey Shore has to offer with his wife, two sons and American Foxhound, Wally.