The BGM-34C was the ultimate development of the AQM-34 series. It was designed as a multi-mission RPV, capable of performing recce, electronic warfare and strike missions. For each of these missions a special nose section was available, and the wing pylons could carry fuel, weapons (AGM-65) or chaff pods. The vertical tail could be fitted with fin tips featuring either the small blade antenna of the Microwave Command Guidance System (as seen on nearly all AQM-34's) or the football shaped fairing of the data link antenna (as seen on the AQM-34Q and R). Five were built from AQM-34L's, and their serial numbers were retained. The BGM-34C shared the basic shape of the AQM-34V, but had wings with bigger ailerons and a slightly wider chord inboard of the ailerons, and a vertical tail with a larger rudder.
Craig Kaston supplied Teledyne-Ryan photos showing BGM-34C with serial number 69-6072. The first shot was made at the roll-out ceremony in August 1976. The nose fitted is the electronic warfare variant, and the pylons are loaded with ALE-38 chaff pods. The second photo shows it on the wing of a DC-130E. This may be a fit check, since the Firebee has not been repainted red-orange as seen in subsequent flight test photos. The BGM-34C appears to be painted in ADC Gray (FS 16473), the ALE-38 pods are painted in a dark olive drab on the upper side and a slightly different gray color on the lower side.
Craig Kaston also found two photos of 69-6072 during the test flight phase, again with the electronic warfare nose section fitted. The fuselage was painted red, possibly to aid in recovery in the snowy high country of Utah. The nickname 'Big Red' is applied in white, and it was fitted with a 1976 Bicentennial Celebrations sticker on the tail. Both photos clearly show the LORAN antenna under the fuselage. The wire is held in position by a small pylon just ahead of the engine exhaust. This antenna can only be fitted with the Firebee suspended from the pylon. Instead of ALE-38 pods, ALE-2 chaff pods are fitted.
The next two photos were also kindly supplied by Craig Kaston. The first one is a color version of the photo shown on page 107 of 'Fireflies and other UAVs'. It looked almost black in the book, but now we can actually see it has some markings in black. Its identity is 'C-3', and it appears to have serial number 69-6072 like above. In that case the wings and tail surfaces have all been repainted. Note that the red paint has peeled off around the intake revealing the initial gray color scheme. This seems to be due to the use of tape to hold the intake cover on. It is fitted with the 'strike' package consisting of a video camera nose section (with flight test boom), a data link antenna on the vertical tail and weapons in the shape of a captive AGM-65A Maverick. On display in the front, from left to right: recce nose section with covered camera windows (with flight test boom), electronic warfare nose section, ALE-38 and ALE-2 chaff dispenser pods and a Fletcher 67 gallon fuel tank. The second photo shows BGM-34C C-5 (serial tie-up unknown) under the wing of a DC-130E. It was photographed at the Edwards AFB Open House on 12 November 1978 by Bob Niedermeier. Like C-3 it shows considerable peeling of the red paint. Interestingly it is fitted with the recce nose section, without window covers this time.
During the flight test program of the BGM-34C project, a demonstration flight was made on 17 November 1977. It is described in 'Fireflies and other UAVs', page 107: "A highlight of the test program was a November 1977 demonstration of RPV formation flying. Two BGM-34C RPVs in the electronic warfare configuration carrying ALE-38 chaff pods flew in formation for 50 minutes while performing an electronic warfare mission profile which demonstrated that unmanned vehicles could lead a strike force penetration to targets in enemy territory. Launched at 15-second intervals, the two birds, with modular EW noses installed, navigated independently on their own internal systems while maintaining an approximate 750-foot lateral separation for the duration of the flight. It was an excellent demonstration of the high degree of accuracy attained with the computer based LORAN navigation system."
The book doesn't show photographs of this mission, but Lou Amadio kindly provided them for this website. Lou flew DC-130's with the 6514th Test Squadron at Hill AFB from 1975 to 1980. According to his logs, he didn't fly this particular mission. The first photo shows the left BGM-34C just released from its pylon. The 6514th Test Squadron Hercules is easily identified as DC-130H 65-0979 because of the large square window in the front fuselage. The second photo shows the nice trail formation in which the BGM-34's are flying. In the third photo a Phantom is seen flying chase.
The BGM-34C on the right pylon has a light gray EW nose section and nacelle, and the ALE-2 pods (not ALE-38 as reported in 'Fireflies and other UAVs') are all black or perhaps very dark olive drab with two red bands. The one on the left pylon has a light gray modular EW nose section and ALE-2 pods with light gray lower sides. Considering the color scheme details, this could be C-3 again.
Captain Harry Hodges of the 6514th Test Squadron was the chief test engineer for the YAQM-34U and the follow-on BGM-34C. He recalls the influence of the YAQM-34U and AQM-34M designs on the BGM-34C:
Wagner chose to ignore the YAQM-34U [in 'Lightning Bugs and other reconnaissance drones'] because it was simply a prototype. The YAQM-34U was important however because it incorporated the Lear Siegler LS-52 computer for navigation and flight control which was also used in the F-4 aircraft. The computer could handle multiple sensor inputs like Doppler, air data, Loran/Tercom so it gave the vehicle much improved navigation. The BGM-34C was the follow-on vehicle which was quite good compared to earlier vehicles because it embodied all of the AQM-34U improvements, much to Ryan's disgust. The AQM-34M's need for a larger payload area drove the BGM-34C's nose design.