Typical AQM-34L missions


After more than 10 years research on the AQM-34, I realised that I had only the vaguest idea of what an actual mission looked like. Together with Craig Kaston I started looking into the available data, in order to produce some first estimates. I chose the AQM-34L (Model 147SC) and its missions as the first subject of the studies. 'Lightning Bugs and other reconnaissance drones' by William Wagner contained some snippets on missions, that are listed below. The performance data of the BQM-34A target drone was analysed and roughly recalculated for the heavier AQM-34. All in all it is a lot of guessing, but maybe this page triggers the memories of those involved, or better ideas how to approach the subject. See also the Blue Springs missions page.



Guestimated flight tracks of 1972-ish AQM-34L missions

Guestimated flight track 1: U-Tapao take-off, via Thailand and Laos to South-Vietnam, crossing south of DMZ to South China Sea / Gulf of Tonkin. Holding pattern and launch off the coast of Haiphong, turning north for a short 150 nm low-level leg, then 350 nm climb-cruise. Flame-out before reaching Da Nang, MARS recovery
Guestimated flight track 2: Haiphong launch, turning south for a slightly longer 200 nm low-level leg, then 250 nm climb-cruise. Flame-out before reaching Da Nang, MARS recovery
Guestimated flight track 3: U-Tapao take-off, via Thailand and Laos to North Vietnam. Holding pattern and launch just outside North Vietnam, west of Hanoi. To Hanoi, then turning south for 200 nm low-level leg, then 250 nm climb-cruise. Flame-out before reaching Da Nang, MARS recovery


Assumptions for the AQM-34L flight tracks



'Lightning Bugs and other reconnaissance drones' snippets



Programmer / autopilot notes

Craig Kaston reports:

As I minimally understand it, the early 1960-vintage patchboard programmer had about 40 commands including turns. Dual commands could be enabled by using a 'Y' jumper (two commands at the same pulse). There were no waypoints in the modern sense. It was all dead reckoning based on the mission planning, weather (winds aloft), plus distance flown and crosstrack correction generated by the Model 523 Doppler Radar Navigator. The 523 would issue one pulse to the programmer for every seven miles traveled. Egress commands could notionally look like:

Crosstrack correction was probably fed directly to the flight control box. By the time you got into the 147SDL with the solid state computer and LORAN, things changed greatly for now you now had closed loop guidance with correction (to the limits of LORAN).

As a side note, in one photo made at the People's Air Force Museum & Air Defense Museum, Hanoi, the remains of a mechanical programmer can be seen.



AQM-34L performance - rough calculations





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