* Early target drones were not much more sophisticated than hobbyist's radio controlled (RC) model airplanes. The only payload they could handle was a towed target sleeve. In time, target drones became more sophisticated, carrying countermeasures, scoring devices, active or passive radar enhancement devices, and tow targets, and would also acquire more sophisticated programmable guidance systems.
Modern target drones are usually launched by aircraft; or off a rail using solid-fuel rocket assisted takeoff (RATO) boosters; or hydraulic, electromagnetic, or pneumatic catapult. Very small target drones can be launched by an elastic bungee catapult. Few target drones have landing gear, and so they are generally recovered by parachute or, in some cases, by a skid landing. This chapter provides a survey of modern US target drones.
* One of the first jet-propelled targets, and one of the most widely-used target drones ever built, was the Teledyne-Ryan "Firebee". This target was the result of a 1948 USAF request that led to award of a contract to Ryan that same year, and first flight of an "XQ-2 Firebee" prototype in early 1951. The drone featured swept flight surfaces and a circular nose inlet. The initial models had distinctive "arrowhead" shaped endplates on the tailplane. The Firebee could be air-launched, or ground-launched with a single RATO booster. It was radio-controlled and recovered by parachute.
Following successful evaluation, the target was ordered into production for the USAF as the "Q-2A", powered by a Continental J69-T-19B turbojet engine -- a Marbore copy with 4.7 kN (481 kgp / 1,060 lbf) thrust. The Air Force then obtained small numbers of a "Q-2B" with a more powerful engine for high-altitude performance.
The US Navy bought the Firebee as the "KDA-1", with much the same appearance as the Q-2A, differing mainly in that the powerplant was a Fairchild J44-R-20B turbojet, with 4.4 kN (453 kgp / 1,000 lbf) thrust. The KDA-1 could be distinguished from the Q-2A from the fact that the KDA-1 had a inlet centerbody. The US Army also obtained a version designated the "XM21" that differed from the KDA-1 only in minor details.
The Navy obtained several improved variants of the KDA-1, including the "XKDA-2" and "XKDA-3", which were not built in quantity, and the "KDA-4", which was the main production version for the series. These variants were hard to distinguish from the KDA-1, differing mainly in successively uprated J44 engines and minor changes.
* In the late 1950s, the USAF awarded Ryan a contract for a substantially improved "second generation" Firebee, the "Model 124", originally with the designation "Q-2C". The initial prototype performed its first flight in late 1958 and went into production in 1960. In 1963, it was redesignated the "BQM-34A". The old first-generation KDA-1 and KDA-4 targets that were still flying with the Navy were then, somewhat confusingly, given the designations "AQM-34B" and "AQM-34C" respectively.
The BQM-34A emerged as the Firebee as it is recognized today, with a bigger airframe, longer wings, and in particular a "chin"-type inlet under a pointed nose, in contrast to the circular nose intake of the first-generation Firebees. It was powered by a Continental J69-T-29A turbojet, a copy of the improved Turbomeca Gourdon derivative of the Marbore, with 7.56 kN (770 kg / 1,700 lb) thrust. The Navy also adopted the BQM-34A, while the Army obtained a ground-launched version designated "MQM-34D", with longer wings and a heavier RATO booster.
One of the puzzling features of the second-generation Firebee is that some photos show it to have triangular endplates on the tailplane, while others show no endplates but feature a ventral fin under the tail, and still others have neither endplates nor ventral fin. Since most modern pictures of Firebees show the ventral fin, this may have been due to production changes; sources are not clear on the issue.
RYAN BQM-34A FIREBEE: _____________________ _________________ _______________________ spec metric english _____________________ _________________ _______________________ wingspan 3.91 meters 12 feet 10 inches length 7 meters 22 feet 10 inches empty weight 680 kilograms 1,500 pounds launch weight 1,135 kilograms 2,500 pounds maximum level speed 1,140 KPH 710 MPH / 620 KT service ceiling 18,300 meters 60,000 feet endurance 75 minutes launch scheme RATO booster or (usually) aircraft launch. recovery scheme Parachute. guidance system Autopilot with radio control. _____________________ _________________ _______________________
During the 1970s, the Army updated some of their MQM-34Ds for use as targets for "Stinger" man-portable SAMs, refitting these drones with a General Electric J85-GE-7 turbojet, with 10.9 kN (1,110 kgp / 2,450 lbf) thrust and salvaged from old ADM-20C Quail decoys, discussed later. The modified MQM-34Ds featured a revised forward fuselage with a circular nose intake that gave them an appearance something like that of a "stretched" first-generation Q-2A target, and were given the designation of "MQM-34D Mod II".
In the meantime, the Navy was upgrading their BQM-34As with improved avionics, with the updated machines given the new designation of "BQM-34S". In the early 1980s, the Navy also began to refit their machines with the uprated J69-T-41A engine, providing 8.5 kN (871 kgp / 1,920 lbf) thrust. Also in the early 1980s, the Air Force began to update their BQM-34As with improved avionics, and fitted them with the J85-GE-7 engine. The new engine was fitted without major changes in the target's airframe, and the improved USAF variants retained the BQM-34A designation.
BQM-34A production ended in 1982, but the production line was reopened in 1986 to produce more BQM-34S targets. Air Force and Navy Firebees have received further upgrades since that time, with most refitted beginning in 1989 with the improved J85-GE-100 engine, also with 10.9 kN (1,110 kg / 2,450 lb) thrust, as well as modernized avionics. In the late 1990s, some Firebees were also fitted with a Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation satellite receiver.
* The Firebee's main air launch platform is the Lockheed DC-130 Hercules drone controller aircraft, which can carry four drones on underwing pylons. The Firebee is generally snatched out of the air by a helicopter that sweeps up the drone's parachute, simplifying recovery and reducing damage to the target from ground impact. The Firebee can float for an extended period of time if it comes down in water.
The Firebee is a simple, reliable, and low-cost target that has been adapted to a wide range of purposes. In the target role, it can be fitted with various control systems, some that give it fighter-like maneuverability; scoring and countermeasures systems; radar enhancement devices to allow it to emulate a wide range of combat aircraft; and wingtip thermal flares, which cause heat-seeking missiles to aim for the wingtips, not the engine exhaust, sparing the target. It can also tow a target sleeve or other types of towed targets.
The Firebee has proven remarkably successful and is still in operation with the US Navy and Air Force. The Firebee has also served with the Canadian Armed Forces and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, with Japanese Firebees built by Fuji Heavy Industries. A small number were also supplied to NATO programs. More than 7,000 Firebees were built, with 1,280 of them being the first generation variants.BACK_TO_TOP
* Teledyne-Ryan also developed a third-generation "Model 166 / Firebee II" with supersonic performance, with the US Navy awarding a development contract to the company in 1965 and initial flight in 1968. Although its external appearance was substantially different from that of the original Firebee, the Firebee II used the same engine and control systems, and confusingly retained the BQM-34 designation. The Navy version was the "BQM-34E", while the Air Force version was the "BQM-34F".
The Air Force BQM-34F was slightly heavier, with an additional parachute for mid-air recovery by helicopter "snatch". The Navy BQM-34E was updated with improved avionics in the mid-1970s, with the upgrade redesignated "BQM-34T".
The Firebee II was a sleek dark of an aircraft with swept tailplane and swept mid-body wings. It was powered by a Teledyne CAE J69-T-6 turbojet with 8.2 kN (835 kgp / 1,840 lbf) thrust, with the intake on the belly forward of the wings and the exhaust under the tailfins. Internal fuel capacity was small, but the target could be fitted with a conformal external tank that was dropped before boosting to supersonic speeds. Flight operations were performed much as they are for the Firebee I, with launch from a DC-130. It doesn't appear that it was ever adapted for RATO ground launch.
RYAN BQM-34F FIREBEE II: _____________________ _________________ _______________________ spec metric english _____________________ _________________ _______________________ wingspan 2.71 meters 8 feet 11 inches length 8.61 meters 28 feet 3 inches height 1.70 meters 5 feet 7 inches empty weight 656 kilograms 1,446 pounds maximum speed 1,835 KPH 1,140 MPH / 990 KT service ceiling 18,300 meters 60,000 feet endurance 73 minutes launch scheme Aircraft launch. recovery scheme Parachute. guidance system Autopilot with radio control. _____________________ _________________ _______________________
286 Firebee IIs were built, a tiny quantity compared to the massive numbers of Firebee Is. The Firebee II is now out of service, while the Firebee I continues in operation after a half century of use, making it one of the longest-lived aircraft in the US military inventory.BACK_TO_TOP
* In the 1959, the US Navy and US Air Force issued a joint request for a new high-speed expendable target. Beechcraft won the competition, and the result was a small delta-winged drone with wingtip fins and a liquid-fuel rocket motor, originally designated "XKD2B-1" but now known as the "AQM-37". The type first flew in May 1961, with the production "Beech Model 1019 / AQM-37A Jayhawk" entering service with the US Navy in 1963. 5,000 AQM-37s were built into 1997, with the bulk of deliveries to the Navy. The "AQM-37C" is the current variant. There were minor variants to simulate various different kinds of threats.
Despite the fact that the Air Force was involved in the program from the start, USAF buys of the AQM-37 were modest. However, after an evaluation of the AQM-37A in the late 1960s, the US Army bought a small initial batch of "Model 1100 / 1101" AQM-37As that, unlike other variants, were recoverable, using a parachute system. Some of this batch were intended for low-altitude operation and fitted with a radar altimeter, and others were intended for high-altitude operation and had a barometric altimeter. The Army later ordered over 400 improved non-recoverable "Model 1102" variants of the AQM-37A.
Small quantities of AQM-37s were also sold to Italy, Israel, and France, while Britain bought several hundred of the type. The Meteor company of Italy built a number of AQM-37s under license. All variants are air-launched, with the US Navy traditionally using the F-4 Phantom for the job and the British using the Canberra. These aircraft are largely out of service and it is not clear how AQM-37s are launched these days.
The latest version of this target is the "AQM-37D", with the same airframe and engine as the AQM-37C but with a new electrical system and avionics. There has also been work on a "Super AQM-37", but its status is unclear.
BEECH AQM-37C: _____________________ _________________ _______________________ spec metric english _____________________ _________________ _______________________ wingspan 1 meter 3 feet 4 inches length 4.27 meters 14 feet height 66 centimeters 2 feet empty weight 124 kilograms 272 pounds launch weight 272 kilograms 600 pounds maximum speed 4,890 KPH 3,040 MPH / 2,640 KT service ceiling 34,000 meters 112,000 feet endurance 15 minutes launch scheme Aircraft launch. recovery scheme Parachute. guidance system Autopilot. _____________________ _________________ _______________________ Endurance figures include glide after engine burnout. Engine burn lasts up to five minutes. The earlier AQM-37A is about 44 centimeters (a foot and a half) shorter than the AQM-37C and weighs slightly less.
* The AQM-37's engine is built by Rocketdyne -- though at one point, due to various changing of hands, it was actually built by Harley-Davidson, the motorcycle manufacturer. The engine uses "storable" liquid propellants, in contrast to "cryogenic" propellants like liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen that have to be loaded up just before launch lest they evaporate away. The problem is that the storable propellants in common use are corrosive, highly toxic, and "hypergolic", meaning that the propellants spontaneously ignite when mixed together.
This tends to make such propellants troublesome to deal with. As a result, in the late 1960s the Air Force investigated an alternate propulsion scheme for the AQM-37 under project "Sandpiper". The program involved fitting a few AQM-37As with "hybrid" engines that used solid fuel with storable nitric acid oxidizer. The tests were judged promising, and so the Air Force went on to establish a "High Altitude Supersonic Target (HAST)" program in the 1970s. HAST suffered various difficulties, and it wasn't until 1979 that a contract was awarded to Teledyne Ryan for the "Model 305 / AQM-81A Firebolt".
The first Firebolt flew in 1983. The new target looked very much like the AQM-37, but had the hybrid rocket engine. The flight test program was completed, but then the HAST effort stalled completely, and the AQM-81A never went into production.BACK_TO_TOP
* The AQM-37 fills a valuable "niche" as a training target, since it can simulate high-speed threats, such as long-range missiles. However, there are some specialized threats that it does not simulate well, such as fast sea-skimming antiship missiles.
The US Navy has gone through a succession of programs in an attempt to obtain such a target. An initial investigation was conducted in the early 1970s for a target designated the "BQM-90", but lack of funds led to the cancellation of the program in 1973 even before a contractor was selected. As an interim measure, the Navy then decided to convert some old "RIM-8 Talos" shipboard antiaircraft missiles to targets, giving them the designation "MQM-8G Vandal".
The Talos targets were not entirely satisfactory for the job, and so in 1977 the Navy awarded a contract to Teledyne Ryan for a purpose-designed target, the "Model 258 / BQM-111A Firebrand". The Firebrand was a neat dart with small delta wings, a conventional tail arrangement, and a Marquardt ramjet mounted at each end of the tailplane. It was to be launched from a DC-130, boost up to Mach 1.2 by a solid-fuel booster, and cruise towards its objective at Mach 2.2, dropping to low level during the terminal attack phase. However, the Firebrand began to seem a bit too heavy for its role, and funding was tight again, so the Navy axed the program in 1982.
That meant keeping the Vandal targets in service, while the Navy went through another iteration to obtain an antiship missile simulator target, awarding a contract to Martin Marietta for the "AQM-127A Supersonic Low-Altitude Target (SLAT)" in 1984. The SLAT was a "flying stovepipe", little more than a cylinder powered a hybrid boost-rocket / ramjet engine with an intake under the nose, and no flight surfaces except for cruciform tailfins. The program was killed off in 1991 without flying a prototype.
As a result, the Vandal had to soldier on into the 1990s, but its numbers were dwindling. Later in the decade, as an interim solution, the Navy acquired a handful of Russian-built "Kh-31A" ramjet-powered anti-ship missiles, modified to "MA-31" targets by Boeing, as an interim solution. This was ironic, since the Kh-31A was one of the threats the MA-31 was being designed to simulate; the Russians were making money on the deal coming and going. There was some consideration to putting the MA-31 into full production, but that didn't happen. The last MA-31s were expended in 2007.
In the summer of 2000, in a fourth attempt to acquire an antiship missile simulator target, the US Navy signed a contract with Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) to build the "GQM-163A Supersonic Sea-Skimming Target (SSST)", with the target performing its initial test flights in the spring of 2004.
The OSC SSST, named the "Coyote", uses an Atlantic Research Corporation (ARC) variable-flow solid-fuel ducted rocket-ramjet engine for propulsion, with the target ground-launched by a surplus Mark 70 solid-rocket motor. OSC worked with Raytheon to develop the guidance system, which is based on the guidance system for the AQM-37D.
The SSST is 5.5 meters (18 feet) long, has a diameter of 36 centimeters (14 inches), a cruise speed of Mach 2.5 (3,060 KPH / 1,900 MPH) at an altitude of lower than 6 meters (20 feet) over the wavetops, and a range of at least 83 kilometers (52 miles). It is launched by a solid-fuel booster stage, originally used on the US Navy Standard ER SAM, with the booster extending the total length to 9.53 meters (31 feet 3 inches). The last Vandal targets were expended in 2005, with the Coyote entering service to replace them. An upgrade named "High Diver" was performed later, supplementing the Coyote's sea-skimming flight profile with a high-altitude cruise / near-vertical dive attack profile, as used by some Russian high-speed antiship missiles.
* While the US Navy engaged in a protracted search for a supersonic target, in the meantime the threat evolved, with the Russians developing the 34M-54E Klub (NATO SS-N-27 Sizzler) antiship missile. The Sizzler is a two-stage weapon, with a subsonic cruise missile carrying a solid-fuel supersonic terminal attack stage. In 2008, the Navy awarded Alliant Techsystems (ATK) to develop a target to simulate the Sizzler or similar weapons under the "Multi-Stage Supersonic Target (MSST)" program. The MSST will feature the same general configuration as the Sizzler, with a subsonic cruise stage and supersonic terminal attack stage, and is expected to go into service in 2014.BACK_TO_TOP
* Following Radioplane's successful early target drones, Northrop scored another major success in the target field with the "Chukar" series of small jet-powered drones. The Chukar has gone through three major revisions, including the initial "MQM-74A Chukar I", the "MQM-74C Chukar II", and the "BQM-74C Chukar III".
The Chukar series began in the early 1960s with a US Navy requirement for a new target drone. The company developed a prototype with the company designation of "NV-105" and featuring a delta wing, flying it in 1964. The delta wing didn't work out and was replaced by a straight wing, resulting in the "NV-105A", which was first flown in 1965. The NV-105A was accepted by the Navy and went into production as the MQM-74A in 1968.
The MQM-74A had a clear evolutionary relationship to the Northrop Crossbow, featuring a neatly tapered cigar-shaped fuselage, straight mid-mounted wings, an underslung jet engine with the intake under the wings, and a conventional tail configuration with the tailplanes set in an inverted vee. It was powered by a Williams International WR24-6 turbojet engine with a thrust of 530 newtons (54 kgp / 121 lbf), and was launched by RATO booster from the ground or a ship.
MQM-74A CHUKAR I: _____________________ _________________ _______________________ spec metric english _____________________ _________________ _______________________ wingspan 1.69 meters 5 feet 7 inches length 3.58 meters 11 feet 9 inches height 0.7 meters 2 feet 4 inches empty weight 106 kilograms 233 pounds max loaded weight 192 kilograms 425 pounds maximum speed 790 KPH 490 MPH / 425 KT service ceiling 12,200 meters 40,000 feet endurance 1 hour launch scheme RATO booster. recovery scheme Parachute. guidance system Autopilot with radio control. _____________________ _________________ _______________________
The Navy purchased 1,800 MQM-74A Chukar Is. Several hundred more were purchased in total by NATO for a multinational test range on the island of Crete, as well as the British Royal Navy and the Italian Navy.
In the mid-1970s, the US Naval Weapons Center used the MQM-74A as the basis for an experimental drone designated the "XBQM-108", which was to be used to as a demonstrator for a "pogo" or "tailsitter" aircraft that could take off and land straight up and down on its tail. The fuselage, tailfin, radio control system, and parachute recovery system of the MQM-74A were retained, but the drone was fitted with a new wing, a Teledyne CAE J402 engine with a rotating "vectored thrust" exhaust, fixed tricycle landing gear, and additional flight control systems. The demonstrator was completed and was making tethered flights when the program was canceled.
* The Navy liked the Chukar I but wanted a somewhat faster version, and in the early 1970s Northrop developed the improved experimental "MQM-74B", which was followed by the production "MQM-74C Chukar II". The Chukar II is difficult to distinguish from the Chukar I, but the Chukar II is slightly scaled up and uses a uprated Williams WR24-7 turbojet with 805 newtons (82 kgp / 180 lbf) thrust that gives it a top speed of 950 KPH (590 MPH).
Like the Chukar I, the Chukar II is ground or ship launched only. At least 1,400 Chukar IIs were built, mostly for the US Navy, but other customers included NATO, the UK, West Germany, Greece, Iran, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, and Spain.
* In 1978, the US Navy requested a still more sophisticated drone, and Northrop responded with the "BQM-74C Chukar III". This improved variant is visibly different from its predecessors, featuring a more cylindrical fuselage, in contrast with the tapered fuselage of its predecessors.
The BQM-74C incorporates a microprocessor-based autopilot that allows it to be programmed for much more sophisticated flight operations. The BQM-74C can be air launched as well as ground launched. The original engine was the Williams WR24-7A AKA J400-WR-402, with 805 newtons (82 kgp / 180 lbf) thrust, but in 1986 production was upgraded to the J400-WR-404 with 1.07 kN (109 kgp / 240 lbf) thrust. The BQM-74C is stressed for maneuvers of up to six gees.
BQM-74C CHUKAR III: _____________________ _________________ _______________________ spec metric english _____________________ _________________ _______________________ wingspan 1.76 meters 5 feet 9 inches length 3.95 meters 13 feet height 0.72 meters 2 feet 4 inches empty weight 133 kilograms 294 pounds max loaded weight 199 kilograms 438 pounds maximum speed 982 KPH 610 MPH / 530 KT service ceiling 12,200 meters 40,000 feet Endurance 1.7 hours launch scheme Air launch or RATO booster. recovery scheme Parachute. guidance system Autopilot with radio control. _____________________ _________________ _______________________ These specifications are for the air-launched version of the BQM-74C. The ground-launched version is slightly heavier.
More than 1,600 BQM-74Cs have been built. Northrop built ten "BQM-74C / Recce" UAVs for tactical reconnaissance for US Navy evaluation, but this variant did not go into production. The BQM-74C has now been replaced in production by the "BQM-74E", which is externally all but identical but incorporates the uprated J400-WR-404 engine as standard, and has a third greater range and endurance than its predecessor.
By the way, "Chukar" is the name of an American species of partridge. As they are hunted for sport, it seems that Northrop felt that the name was appropriate for an aircraft whose purpose in life is to be shot at. The name "Chukar" is apparently only formally applied to export versions of the drone, but for convenience it is used for all variants in this discussion.
* In the 1980s, Northrop built a next-generation target, the "NV-144", that was substantially bigger and faster than the Chukar III, but the NV-144 did not enter production. Northrop, now part of Northrop Grumman, is now working toward delivery of the improved "BQM-74F" variant of the Chukar, previously known as "Target 2000". The BQM-74F has general configuration along the lines of the BQM-74C, but features:
The BQM-74F can simulate a range of different aircraft and cruise missiles. It is also be able to tow targets and decoys, and is be compatible with pre-existing Chukar support systems and infrastructure. The Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a development contract in 2002, with initial flight in 2005 and service deliveries to the Navy in 2006. Like the Firebee, the Chukar has proven an extremely useful and long-lived piece of gear; it is now looking forward to its fifth decade in operation.
* Chukars have actually seen combat use of sorts. The Israelis them as decoys during the 1973 Yom Kippur war, but to no great effect. However, just before Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Northrop briefed US Air Force officials on how decoys could be used for military operations in the Middle East. After the invasion, the idea of using Chukars to help penetrate Iraqi air defenses led to project codenamed SCATHE MEAN, implemented by the USAF Big Safari organization -- created in the 1950s, with a charter for fast-track development projects, more generally for aerial reconnaissance and surveillance systems.
The BQM-74C Chukar drones that were available were usually launched from DC-130 director aircraft, and could also be launched from strike aircraft such as F-15s or F-16s. These resources were not available, so the Navy found twelve ground launchers in their inventory that could be made serviceable, while RATO booster units were found stockpiled in Belgium. Each BQM-74C was fitted with a pair of passive radar enhancement devices to give it a signature similar to that of a strike fighter.
A 40-person team of specialists, obtained from disbanded ground-launched cruise missile units, was assembled in a few days and designated the "4468th Tactical Reconnaissance Group". The teams were given quick training, equipped with 44 Navy BQM-174Cs, and sent to Saudi Arabia in two six-launcher teams in about two weeks, arriving near the Iraqi border on 15 October 1990. When the air war began on the night of 17 January 1991, Iraq was hit by waves of Lockheed F-117 stealth fighters and Tomahawk cruise missiles. 38 BQM-74Cs were assigned to be launched as a diversion for the second wave of attacks, with the launches generally in groups of three, and 37 were launched successfully in precisely timed waves. One group of three was intercepted by Iraqi aircraft, while all the others made it to target.
The drones flew over 500 kilometers (310 miles) at 630 KPH (390 MPH), then began to orbit Baghdad for up to 20 minutes. Iraqi air defense radars probed for the drones and were immediately destroyed by Allied strike aircraft firing high-speed antiradiation missiles (HARMs). Iraqi air defenses never recovered from the blow, and though heavy Allied aircraft losses had been predicted, the Iraqis only succeeded in shooting down a handful. After the war, the 4468th was disbanded, and one of the remaining BQM-74Cs was donated to the US Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, where it is now on display.BACK_TO_TOP
* The US Army began a "Variable-Speed Training Target (VSTT)" competition in 1972. Beech Aircraft, now part of Raytheon, won the contest in 1975 with a design that was designated the "MQM-107 Streaker". Initial deliveries to the US Army of the first version, the "MQM-107A", began in the spring of 1976.
The Streaker is a neat little aircraft, with a pencil-like fuselage, low-mounted swept wings, a conventional tail assembly, and a turbojet engine mounted in a belly pod. The Streaker is ground-launched with a RATO booster, can be used to tow banner targets, and can be fitted with radar-enhancement devices, flare dispensers, and scoring systems. Several variants of the Streaker have been built:
Beechcraft also developed a variant of the Streaker with a twin-fin tail, the "Model 997 / BQM-126A", for a Navy contract in the mid-1980s. The twin-fin tail was implemented because the single tailfin of the Streaker was too tall to permit underwing carriage by fighter aircraft.
First flight was in 1984, but lack of funds forced the Navy to cancel the project.
MQM-107B STREAKER: _____________________ _________________ _______________________ spec metric english _____________________ _________________ _______________________ wingspan 3 meters 9 feet 10 inches length 5.51 meters 18 feet 1 inches height 1.47 meters 4 feet 10 inches empty weight 261 kilograms 575 pounds max loaded weight 664 kilograms 1,464 pounds maximum speed 950 KPH 590 MPH / 515 KT service ceiling 12,200 meters 40,000 feet endurance 2 hours 18 minutes launch scheme RATO booster. recovery scheme Parachute. guidance system Autopilot with radio control. _____________________ _________________ _______________________
The Streaker remains in production, though apparently the business was bought up by Tracor, which was then absorbed by BAE Systems of the UK, and so the target is, strictly speaking, now the "BAE Streaker". Whatever the name, well over a thousand have been built. The main user remains the US Army, though a small number were obtained by the US Air Force, and the type has been purchased by at least six other nations. The Swedes have given their Streakers the designation "RB-06". Australia operates the MQM-107E as the "Kalkara (Storm Petrel)".
In the mid-1980s, Raytheon proposed a countermeasures variant of the Streaker known as the "Raider", but there were no buyers. In the late 1990s, Boeing tried to sell an enhanced MQM-107D known as the "Drone RF Electronic Enhancement Mechanism (DREEM)", but nobody bought it either.
The fact that the Streaker was designed in the early 1970s implies its name is something of a joke. At that time there was a fad in the US, now almost completely forgotten, called "streaking", which involved people dashing through public and often televised events at a dead run, wearing nothing but athletic shoes and generally a mask of some sort. Given how visible this activity was at the time, it seems hard to believe that whoever gave the MQM-107 the name "Streaker" didn't know what it implied.
* The Air Force has run low on Firebee and Streaker subscale targets, and signed a contract with Composite Engineering INC (CEI) of Sacramento, California, to obtain a new subscale target named the "Skeeter" or "BQM-167A". Initial flight of prototypes was in 2001, with full-scale production beginning in 2004.
The Skeeter has a resemblance to the Streaker, with a turbojet engine under the belly. The target is about 6 meters (20 feet) long, has a wingspan of 3 meters (10 feet), and is largely made of composites. Incidentally, for readers not familiar in detail with "Yanklish", a "skeeter" is a slang term for a "mosquito". It is air or ground launched.
The Skeeter has high endurance (up to three hours), performance (up to Mach 0.9), and payload (up to 225 kilograms / 500 pounds), with the payload including tow targets and radar enhancement devices. The Skeeter can tolerate up to nine gees in turns.BACK_TO_TOP
* Relatively sophisticated targets like the Firebee or Chukar are often supplemented, for anti-aircraft gunnery training at least, by drone targets that are little more than relatively large RC model aircraft, not conceptually much different from that of Reginald Denny's early Radioplane drones. One example was the US Army's "FQM-117A Radio Controlled Miniature Aerial Target (RCMAT)", a small delta-winged aircraft powered by piston engine, built by RS Systems. It could carry a radar reflector, an infrared source, or a laser scoring device to allow trainees to shoot at the thing with lasers and not guns.
The first RCMATs were delivered in 1979, and about 30,000 were built. In 1983, RC Systems introduced the "FQM-117A Augmented RCMAT (ARCMAT)", which was an RCMAT fitted with various dummy nose and tail sections to give it an appearance similar to that of various Soviet and US aircraft in hopes of training gunners to recognize them. Thousands of RCMATs were converted to ARCMATs.
The ARCMAT led to the "FQM-117B", which was RCMAT kit built in the form of 1/9th-scale model of a MiG-27, and the "FQM-117C", which was similarly a 1/9th-scale model of an F-16. These variants also had a number of refinements, such as "shoot back" laser to train troops in taking cover, and a "flash-bang-smoke" system that went off if the target took a given number of hits.
A total of over 100,000 FQM-117 targets of all types was built. The FQM-117B and FQM-117C began to be phased out in the late 1990s in favor of the more realistic and capable "MQM-143 Remotely Piloted Vehicle Target System (RPVTS)", which includes 1/5th scale models of the Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot close-support aircraft and the Mil Mi-24 Hind gunship.
* The Army has now acquired another small target, the Griffon Aerospace MQM-170A "Outlaw". It is largely made of composite materials, with a low-mounted straight wing, an upright vee tail, and a two-stroke piston engine driving a pusher propeller. It can be launched by pneumatic catapult and skid recovered, or be fitted with fixed tricycle landing gear to permit conventional takeoffs and landings. It is radio controlled, with a GPS waypoint system as a backup.
MQM-170A OUTLAW: _____________________ _________________ _______________________ spec metric english _____________________ _________________ _______________________ wingspan 4.1 meters 13 feet 6 inches length 2.7 meters 9 feet weight 54 kilograms 120 pounds maximum speed 200 KPH 125 MPH / 110 KT endurance 1 hour 15 minutes launch scheme Pneumatic catapult or wheeled takeoff. recovery scheme Skid or wheeled landing. guidance system Radio control with GPS waypoint system. _____________________ _________________ _______________________
Maximum payload is about 18 kilograms (40 pounds), including IR enhancers, laser scoring system and reflectors, a smoke generator, and a lighting kit for nighttime operations.
The Outlaw having proven popular with the military, it has been followed up by the "MQM-171A Broadsword", which has much the same configuration as the MQM-170A, but is much larger. It is compatible with all Outlaw systems. It is intended for use as an equipment trials platform as well as a target.
MQM-171A BROADSWORD: _____________________ _________________ _______________________ spec metric english _____________________ _________________ _______________________ wingspan 6.86 meters 22 feet 6 inches length 4.51 meters 14 feet 10 inches weight 250 kilograms 550 pounds maximum speed 200 KPH 125 MPH / 110 KT endurance 4 to 6 hours launch scheme Pneumatic catapult or wheeled takeoff. recovery scheme Skid or wheeled landing. guidance system Radio control with GPS waypoint system. _____________________ _________________ _______________________
Griffon is now working on an "Outlaw G2", which despite its name is generally different from the original Outlaw, having a twin-boom twin-prop configuration. It is about half the weight of the Broadsword. So far Griffon has been too busy trying to meet demands for targets to move into operational UAV systems, but the firm is making sure that its newer products are designed to allow them to be configured as such.
* Along with these little piston-powered targets, the US Army operates a simple rocket-powered target, the "MTR-15 Ballistic Aerial Target System (BATS)", for gunnery training. It consists of a low-cost missile body powered by a small solid-fuel booster. It has no guidance system or scoring devices; it is simply fired over a training range and the trainees take shots at it. It can by no means be thought of as a UAV.
The current BATS was introduced in the early 1970s, with about 11,000 built. It replaced a very similar ballistic target, the "MQR-16A Gunrunner", that had been introduced in the late 1960s as a training target for Redeye infantry-portable SAMs. The last Gunrunners were expended in the 1980s. The Army has been thinking of phasing out BATS, but in the absence of any replacement program has continued to buy more of them.
In the late 1960s, at the other end of the performance scale, the Army developed the "MQR-13A Ballistic Missile Target System (BMTS)", which was a series of targets based on the booster stage from a Nike-Ajax SAM, with several possible second stages. It was used to evaluate antimissile weapons, was not used as a regular training target, and was only built in very small numbers. Other limited-series antimissile test targets have been built since that time, with Orbital Sciences currently occupying an interesting niche in this role, piecing together targets from off-the-shelf and military surplus missile parts. However, since these targets are clearly not UAVs either, they are not discussed further in this document.
* As a footnote to this chapter, obsolete jet fighters remain popular as "full-scale" target drones. Their operating costs tend to be higher than those of purpose-built drones, but they also have higher performance and are more realistic duplicates of actual threats.
Many US target drone conversions have been performed by Tracor Systems, now part of Marconi. The Tracor QF-86 Sabre and QF-4 Phantom drones remain in operation at last notice, though the QF-100 Super Sabre, QF-102 Delta Dagger, and QF-106 Delta Dart targets are out of service, having made their final sacrifices to the defense of America. The QF-4 Phantom remains in service, but it is not all that representative of a modern threat aircraft, which led to an "Air Superiority Target (AST)" program to evaluate a number of options for a replacement. The final result was award of a contract to Boeing to convert up to 126 old General Dynamics F-16A & F-16C fighters into "QF-16" targets. Initial redeliveries will be in 2014.BACK_TO_TOP