Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Appendix 4: Undesignated Vehicles
SENIOR PROM
 
Copyright © 2003-2005 Andreas Parsch

Lockheed SENIOR PROM

SENIOR PROM was an early U.S. Air Force program to develop a highly stealthy cruise missile. The project is still classified, and until now only very limited and unconfirmed information was available. However, the late Ben R. Rich, former head of Lockheed's "Skunk Works", had provided aerospace researcher and author James C. Goodall in 1992 with material about the SENIOR PROM program. This material, which included motion picture films of test launches of SENIOR PROM flight test articles, was not to be published in any way for at least 10 years. Many thanks go to Mr. Goodall for sharing the images and information and allowing them to be put online in the Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles.

The SENIOR PROM program was begun in the late 1970s after Lockheed's HAVE BLUE manned testbed had validated the basic idea of using "faceting" (where the entire external surface consists of carefully aligned flat polygons) to generate aircraft shapes with an extremely low radar cross section (RCS). Beginning in October 1978, prototypes of the SENIOR PROM missile were launched from DC-130 carrier aircraft. Six vehicles were built, and were recovered using a parachute system and an inflatable landing bag. A total of thirteen flight tests occurred, which were all successful. The vehicle was flown over the RCS range of Groom Lake without generating a detectable return on the SPS-13 range radar.

Photo: Ben Rich/Lockheed, via James C. Goodall
SENIOR PROM (early configuration)


The shape of the SENIOR PROM missile's fuselage was very similar to that of the HAVE BLUE. There was of course no need for a cockpit and canopy, and so the fuselage profile was a bit flatter. The sharply swept wings were of narrow and constant chord, and the initial configuration had outer sections with a very pronounced dihedral. It can be assumed that the wings could be folded for more compact carriage by the launch aircraft. Other than on HAVE BLUE (and the later F-117A), the fuselage side and wing leading edge did not form a single straight line. In the initial version of the SENIOR PROM missile, a major difference from HAVE BLUE was the configuration of the tail surfaces, because SENIOR PROM had only a single rectangular ventral fin. However, later flight articles used a V-tail very similar to that of the F-117A, and also eliminated the outer wing sections. The single jet exhaust in the triangular tail was very flat, and the airframe shielded the exhaust from below (as on HAVE BLUE and F-117A). It can be assumed that the missile was powered by a single turbofan engine.

Photo: Ben Rich/Lockheed, via James C. Goodall
SENIOR PROM (later configuration)


Despite the successful flight tests, no production contract was awarded for SENIOR PROM, and the program was terminated in 1981. One reported reason is that the missile was too bulky to be carried in the bomb bay of a B-1B. I don't have dimensional data on SENIOR PROM available to check this claim, but the relatively wide and flat shape of the SENIOR PROM design was indeed not optimal for internal carriage. Development of a stealthy cruise missile was subsequently continued by the AGM-129 ACM (Advanced Cruise Missile) and AGM-137 TSSAM (Tri-Service Standoff Attack Missile) programs.

More Photos

Additional photos of the SENIOR PROM test vehicles can be found in the SENIOR PROM Photo Gallery.

Specifications

No public information is available on the SENIOR PROM's dimensions and performance characteristics.

Main Sources

[1] Information provided by James C. Goodall and Peter Merlin
[2] Curtiss Peebles: "Dark Eagles: A History of Top Secret U.S. Aircraft Programs", Presidio, 1999


Back to Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 4





Last Updated: 17 May 2005