Aviation Historian 39
B.Cahill - Lightning Bugs & Buffalo Hunters
An AQM-34M (Model 147SD) Buffalo Hunter mounted on a ground handling cart undergoes electronics checks before a mission at U-Tapao in Thailand in the early 1970s. The Thai base was home to both the largest and the smallest assets - the B-52Ds in the background and the Ryan drones respectively - in SAC’s inventory.
Boeing RB-47H serial 53-4296 was one of two examples assigned to Project Long Arm, essentially a test programme to assess the ability of drones to collect ELINT in a high-threat environment and relay it to an aircraft loitering in relative safety nearby. The result was Projects Left Hook and United Effort in Vietnam during 1965-66.
The AQM-34L/TV (Model 147SC/TV), a low-altitude SC Buffalo Hunter with a video camera and line-of-sight datalink, was introduced in June 1972, completing 121 operational missions in south-east Asia. This variant flew the last drone mission before hostilities ceased in Vietnam, and was used in 1973 for monitoring the peace.
A Model 147SC/TV suspended beneath the wing of a DC-130. The latter was fitted with two drone-launch stations outboard of the outer engines and a drone compartment aft of the cockpit, accommodating two Launch Control Officers, an Airborne Recovery Control Officer and a radar technician who monitored the MCGS suite.
A Lockheed DC-130 takes off with a pair of AQM-34Ms (Ryan Model 147Ds) on its outer wing pylons.
The AQM-34M(L), a Model 147SDL with LORAN navigation equipment, was first fielded in August 1972 to address some of the navigational inaccuracies of the Model 147. This example, M-42L, seen mounted on the outer pylon of a DC-130 (with another good view of the additional MCGS radome on its nose) has six parachute markings on the fuselage above its wings, denoting six successful operational missions.
A technician inspects a dark-painted Ryan Model 147J mounted on the wing of a DC-130 at Bien Hda in April 1966, the month the 147J - essentially a 147G optimised for low-altitude work - began operations in south-east Asia. Between April 1966 and November 1967 the 147J flew a total of 94 sorties with a 65 per cent recovery rate.
A DC-130 departs on another Lightning Bug mission. Visible on the nose of the DC-130 is the smaller radome for the Microwave Command Guidance System (MCGS) that enabled in-flight control of the drone
В полете разведывательный БПЛА AQM-34 «Файрби». Вьетнам, середина 1960-х гг.
Teledyne Ryan Model 147SC (AQM-34L) shortly after launch from its DC-130E director aircraft
Grim determination - AQM-34L (Ryan Model 147SC) Tom Cat of the 556th Reconnaissance Sqn (RS) flew 68 missions over North Vietnam before it was lost to anti-aircraft fire over Hanoi.
The Ryan Q-2C (Ryan Model 124) differed substantially from its Q-2A predecessor, with the air intake for the Continental J69 turbojet relocated to a “chin” position beneath a pointed nose. The subsonic (maximum speed Mach 0-96) Q-2C went into production in 1960 and was developed into the Model 147 reconnaissance variant in early 1962.
THE FIREBEE PROJECT was initiated in 1948 as a USAF contract with Ryan for a jet-powered gunnery-target drone. The first flight of the XQ-2 Firebee prototype took place in early 1951, with the drone having the option to be air-launched or ground-launched with booster rockets.
Lockheed U-2R serial 68-10340 taxies out for a mission from Bien Hoa in 1969. By this time the U-2 was confined to missions over Laos and Cambodia owing to the threat of losses over North Vietnam, leaving missions over North Vietnam to the unmanned AQM-34 and the Lockheed SR-71, the latter untroubled by aircraft or missiles.