Originally developed for the US Navy during the late 1960s, the AGM-78 was created in large part because of the limitations of the AGM-45 Shrike, which suffered from a small warhead, limited range and a poor guidance system. General Dynamics was asked to create an air-launched ARM by modifying the RIM-66 SM-1 surface-to-air missile. This use of an "off the shelf" design greatly reduced development costs, and trials of the new weapon begun in 1967 after only a year of development. The first operational missiles were issued in early 1968.
The AGM-78 was nicknamed the "starm", an abbreviation of Standard ARM. The first version of the missile, the A1 Mod 0, was little more than an air-launched RIM-66 with the Shrike's anti radar seeker head attached to the front. An Aerojet Mark 27 MOD 4 dual-thrust solid-rocket-powered the missile, which was fitted with a blast-fragmentation warhead. Although more capable, the AGM-78 was much more expensive than the AGM-45 and the Shrike continued in service for some time. The new missile was carried by the F-105F/G and the A-6B/E.