Air-Launched Cruise Missile (AGM-86B)

The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project was completed in August 1998 and resulted in the book Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 edited by Stephen I. Schwartz. These project pages should be considered historical.


Air-Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs) being loaded aboard a B-52 bomber at Griffiss Air Force Base, New York, in December 1981. The open warhead compartment on one missile is clearly visible.


Starting in 1978, 1,787 ALCMs were manufactured, at a cost of $6.3 billion (excluding their nuclear warheads). Each ALCM carries a

W80-1 warhead

with a yield of either < 1-5 kilotons or 150 kilotons. Under a secret program begun in 1988, several hundred alcms have been converted to carry conventional warheads (at an additional cost of $260,000 per missile). These conventional versions were first used against Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War and in a subsequent attack on September 4, 1996.



Credit: U.S. Air Force (courtesy Natural Resources Defense Council)