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Firebee UAV

The Firebee has several designations, for example, BQM-34S is Air Force, MQM-34D is Army, and there are several versions under the model 147 designation. Both China and Iran have this UAV in their inventory. The wings are mid-mounted, swept-back, and untapered with angular tips. The engine is a bulging jet on the belly with an oval intake and round exhaust. The fuselage is round and tapered front and rear with a pointed nose and tail cone and a belly fin. The tail flats are high-mounted, swept-back, and untapered, with a swept-back and tapered fin.

The BQM-34A FIREBEE is a high-speed, subsonic, remotely controlled target manufactured by Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical Company, San Diego, California. The vehicle is of midwing construction, is propelled by a single Contiental J69- T-29, 1700 lb thrust turbojet engine, and weighs approximately 2300 lb with fuel. During flight the target is controlled through all normal flight maneuvers necessary for the performance of its mission. It is recovered by use of a parachute recovery system initiated by either direct command of the remote control operator or automatically by loss of power or loss of control-transmission carrier.

Both historical cost data and the target missile airframe weight were obtained from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The airframe weight for this target is 642 lb and the calculated average unit cost for the 700 production units in FY 77 dollars is $69,053. This average unit production cost was calculated using a derived total cost production slope of 85.6 percent and a theoretical first unit cost of $232,878 from the historical data.

Mid-air recovery remained less than an ideal solution to the recovery prob-lem. The USAF MARS system was used for the Firebees and their derivatives and was the only fully standardized system in use. It was constantly undergoing modifications and re-appraisal. Apparently, the logistics requirements were diverse and costly. It has been estimated that half of the operations cost is for mid-air recovery of these drones. Also, the recovery success averaged only about 75 percent over the 5-6 years up to 1972, although it was much better in 1970 and 1971.

AQM-103 Firebee

In 1974, the U.S. Air Force's FDL (Flight Dynamics Laboratory) converted a single Ryan Model 147G Firebee reconnaissance drone to a high-manoeuverability testbed known as "FDL-23". The structure of the FDL-23 was modified to withstand 10g, and the designation XQM-103A was allocated. When all tactical RPV programs were curtailed in late 1975, the XQM-103A flight test program was also terminated.


RoleReconnaissance, target
Similar Aircraft
Wing Span 12 ft, 10 in (3.93 m)
Length 22 ft, 10 in (6.98 m)
Maximum speed
Cruising speed
Service Ceiling
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Page last modified: 14-01-2018 18:56:08 ZULU