AQM-34L COMPASS BIN [FIREBEE II]
The AQM-34L reconnaissance drone was developed from the earlier BQM-34A (formerly designated Q-2-C) jet-powered, subsonic target drone first produced in 1960. It is one of a series of remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) used for combat reconnaissance during the Vietnam War. Ryan modified the basic Firebee target to fly autonomous, pre-programmed, long-range reconnaissance missions. Twenty-eight special purpose variants were ultimately developed to gather photographic, infrared and electronic intelligence information, to carry out electronic countermeasures, and to act as decoys in probing enemy defenses.
The AQM-34L was air-launched and controlled from a DC-130 director aircraft and flown on low-level photographic missions over North Vietnam. After a mission, the RPV was directed to a safe recovery area where its parachute was deployed. The Firebee was then either retrieved in mid-air by helicopter or recovered from land or water. During the Vietnam conflict, over a thousand unmanned Ryan 'Lightning Bug' RPVs carried out 3,435 sorties round-trip missions of up to 1,400 nautical miles. These flights were supported by a cadre of on-site civilian Ryan technicians and specialists.
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