1975. Country: USA. Department of Defence Designation: MQM-105A.
Historical Essay © Andreas Parsch
Lockheed MQM-105 Aquila
The MQM-105 Aquila was the first serious U.S. Army attempt to field a multimission battlefield RPV. As it turned out, it also was the first of a number of failures to do this in a time- and cost-effective way.
The Aquila was originally briefly known as "Little R", and was developed by LMSC (Lockheed Missiles & Space Company) in the early 1970s as a recoverable low-cost mini-RPV for real-time target acquisition, artillery adjustment, target designation by laser, and aerial reconnaissance. After the U.S. Army had expressed interest in the vehicle in 1974, a program to flight test XMQM-105A prototypes was begun. The first of these flew in December 1975, and the tests established the operational performance characteristics and the training requirements for the Aquila. In August 1979, Lockheed was awarded a full-scale development contract for an Aquila TADAR (Target Acquisition, Designation and Aerial Reconnaissance) system. The first flight of a YMQM-105A FSD vehicle occurred in July 1982.
The YMQM-105A was a flying-wing type aircraft powered
by a two-stroke piston engine driving a pusher propeller. It was launched
from a truck-mounted catapult, and recovered by flying it into a truck-mounted
net. The Aquila was guided automatically into this net by infrared
sensors, and the net could be risen and lowered very quickly to keep a
low profile. For training and test flights, the MQM-105 was equipped with
a parachute recovery system for emergencies. The major mission payload
items included a daylight TV-camera with a laser rangefinder/designator
and an autotracker. The TV-camera was stationary, with line-of-sight stabilization
and control provided by a gimballed mirror system in a ventral turret.
A gimbal-mounted FLIR (Forward-Looking Infrared) package was later also
planned for the Aquila to give it a capability for night/all-weather
operations. The Aquila's mission could be completely preprogrammed
by way of waypoints stored in the vehicle's flight control system. The
system included a jamming-resistant two-way datalink for command uplink
and telemetry/video downlink.
The YMQM-105A test program met with its share of problems,
including vehicle crashes and payload difficulties. However, during operational
testing in 1986 and early 1987, the Aquila successfully demonstrated
a number of complex tasks. These included finding a target and determining
its type in various conditions, tracking and laser-designating a moving
target, passing control of the RPV in flight from one ground station to
another, and fully automatic net retrieval. At that time, it was planned
to award a contract for production of up to 376 MQM-105A Aquila
RPVs in late 1987. However, this was not to be. Throughout its full-scale
development phase, the Aquila suffered from ever changing and increasing
mission requirements, which eventually led to excessive cost overruns.
The MQM-105 was finally cancelled in late 1987.
Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!
Data for YMQM-105A:
 Bernard Blake (ed.): "Jane's Weapon Systems 1987-88",
Manufacturer: Lockheed MSC. Liftoff Thrust: 56 N (13 lbf). Total Mass: 54 kg (119 lb). Core Diameter: 0.30 m (0.98 ft). Total Length: 1.83 m (6.00 ft). Span: 3.66 m (12.00 ft). Maximum range: 580 km (360 mi). Boost engine: Reciprocating. Guidance: Command Link. Maximum speed: 190 kph (110 mph).
© Mark Wade, 1997 - 2007 except where otherwise noted.
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