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Ryan Firebee — this drone could fly as a target, fly photo recce or attack

21 September 2012

Ryan Firebee — this drone could fly as a target, fly photo recce or attack

Two large bombs arm this Firebee, though the nose would have typically been equipped with a video camera for this mission type — photo by Joseph May

Unlike many jet powered fighters the Ryan Firebee had its engine forward of the wing — photo by Joseph May

Suspended in the Air Force Armament Museum is a Ryan Firebee. The information placard is sparse regarding this Firebee, indicating it is a target drone (BQM-34) though it is obviously an attack drone (AQM-34) with its two large bombs mounted under wing — yet it has symbols for parachute recoveries indicating a photo recon drone (also AQM-34). This was the utility of the Firebee as it could be converted to perform any of these missions. Target drone missions typically began with a catapult launch from a rail but attack or recon launches were from a mothership (typically a Neptune or a Hercules). Firebees (even the target drones if they were not destroyed) were recovered by helicopter while under parachute canopy. The attack drones were normally used to target anti-aircraft positions as part of an air strike.

Shark teeth and eyes with 13 mission symbols mark this to be a veteran Firebee — photo by Joseph May

The turbojet exhaust, twin tail and bombs close aboard — photo by Joseph May

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force has this BQM-34 Firebee fact sheet, as well as this AQM-34 Firebee fact sheet.

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