Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
FREE Admission & Parking

Fairchild XSM-73 Bull Goose now on display

  • Published
  • By Nick Apple
  • National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
Another unique, historical aircraft has been retrieved from storage, painstakingly restored by volunteers, and placed on public display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in its Research and Development Gallery. The latest addition is the little-known Fairchild XSM-73 Bull Goose, a pilot-less decoy missile that had been envisioned for an important role in the Cold War of 1946-1990.

The 33.5-foot-long missile was designed in the 1950s to confuse enemy defenses by simulating the radar signatures of large bombers like the B-36, B-47 and B-52. The thought was that if several ground-launched, intercontinental-range SM-73 decoys could saturate defense radars, then the real bombers would have a better chance of reaching their targets.

Initially flown in 1957, the experimental XSM-73 was plagued with engine, structural and electronic problems, forcing cancellation of the Bull Goose project in 1958, three years ahead of its planned deployment as the SM-73. Despite never becoming operational, the Bull Goose's fiberglass-resin wings provided early experience in building aircraft using composite materials.

In September 2009, 40 years after receiving its XSM-73, the museum was able to place the decoy missile on display. Restoration Division members had retrieved it from storage and assigned the restoration task to a new team of volunteers: Dale Burnside, Elwood Dornbusch and Ron Smith. They worked on the project some 422 hours over a period of six months to make the XSM-73 look new again.

Note: This article originally appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of
Friends Journal. To receive the Journal and other benefits, become a member of the Air Force Museum Foundation.