Convair built the first prototype using their own funds, but received an official development contract from the United States Air Force on 16 August 1954. The project designation was MX-2224. When the Air Force decided to put the project into production, it received the designation GAM-71.
As initially envisioned by the Air Force, one B-36 in the typical three-plane attack formation would be filled entirely with GAM-71s, carrying a total of seven. A total of two decoys could be carried in each bomb bay (except three), and a mixed load was also possible although the Air Force did not specify that it intended to use mixed loads.
To fit in the bomb bay of a B-36, the GAM-71 was relatively small; its wings were folded when it was stowed in the bay. To mimic the radar cross-section of the B-36, it carried radar reflectors.
In February 1955, glide tests of XGAM-71 prototypes began using a modified B-29 Superfortress as the mothership. However, the program was delayed due to funding issues. Convair also had higher priorities. A total of seven flights were conducted before the program was cancelled in January 1956, an event that Jenkins attributes to the imminent B-36 phase-out.