AQM-34 versions

It is easy to get confused by the the many designations allocated to various Firebee versions. First an overview of the basic Teledyne-Ryan model numbers, please note the difference between BQM (target drone) and BGM (armed RPV) designations:

Teledyne-Ryan designation Military designations Name Role Remarks
124 BQM-34 (USAF/USN)
MQM-34 (USAr)
Q-2 (USAF pre 1962)
KDA (USN pre 1962)
Firebee I subsonic target drone  
147 AQM-34G/H/J/K/L/M/N/P/Q/R none ? Early versions under 'Project Firefly / Lightning Bug' name. Firebee in everyday USAF use subsonic RPV (recce, ECM, ELINT) lengthened Firebee I
166 BQM-34E/F/T Firebee II supersonic target drone completely different design
234 BGM-34A/B none ? combat RPV largely identical to Model 147
255 AQM-34V none ? ECM RPV modernized Model 147
259 BGM-34C none ? combat RPV largely identical to Model 147

The Teledyne-Ryan Model 154 / AQM-91, a completely different design, was also called Firefly within the USAF, which increases the designation confusion.

The dimensions of the various Models are quite confusing, and sources do not always agree. The table below lists published data. Dimensions marked # are taken from "RPVs: Robot aircraft today (Jane's Pocket Book 13)", those marked * from "Lightning Bugs and other reconnaissance drones", in which only round figures are used. Also no idea whether the spike on the radome (if present) is included in the length figures. The Model 124 is also included because it served as the basis for the Model 147. Use all data with caution, I found too many errors so far!

Only later models of the Ryan Model 147 received USAF designations, probably because of the secret nature of the project in its early years, and the not-so-regular procurement procedures. For this reason the Ryan model designations are important to know.

Teledyne Ryan model USAF designation Role Length Span Engine             Number Operational use Remarks ("Lightning Bug" photo pages)
124 BQM-34A target drone 22'10.8" (6.98m) # 12'10.8" (3.93m) # J69-T-29
1700 lbf
>7000 59-now 36 sqft wing
147A - prototypes (photo recce) 27' (8.23m) * 13' (3.96m) * J69-T-29
1700 lbf
4 4/62 - 8/62 Converted Model 124s, 35" fuselage plug, much larger nose for camera, ventral fin like Model 124. Unclear whether extended wing tips as on 147C were used. Hycon HR233 camera, 24 inch focal length. (LB p28, 30)
147B - high-altitude photo recce 27' (8.23m) * 27' (8.23m) * J69-T-29
1700 lbf
37 8/64 - 12/65 Very much larger wing, now tapered instead of constant-chord. Wing area 80 sqft. Ventral fin like Model 124 seen on some. Hycon HR233 camera, 24 inch focal length. (LB p49, 50, 51, 60, 64, 76, 78, 116)
147C - medium altitude photo recce 27' (8.23m) * 15' (4.57m) * J69-T-29
1700 lbf
7 10/65 Series model of 147A. Larger span wings created with extended wing tips. Wing area 40 sqft. (LB p94)
147D - ELINT 27' (8.23m) * 15' (4.57m) * J69-T-29
1700 lbf
3 8/65 147C modified for ELINT work
147E - ELINT 27' (8.23m) * 27' (8.23m) * J69-T-29
1700 lbf
3 10/65 - 2/66 147B airframe with 147D ELINT equipment. Ventral fin like Model 124 seen on some. (LB p48, 101)
147F - ECM 27' (8.23m) * 27' (8.23m) * J69-T-29
1700 lbf
1 7/66 Converted 147B to ECM tasks
147G - high-altitude photo recce 29' (8.84m) * 27' (8.23m) * J69-T-41A
1920 lbf
56 10/65 - 8/67 Updated 147B, more powerful engine, fuselage extended 2ft (unclear where). Hycon HR233 camera, 24 inch focal length. (LB p94, 111)
147H AQM-34N high-altitude photo recce 30'0" (9.14m) #
30' (9.14m) *
32'0" (9.75m) #
32' (9.75m) *
1920 lbf
? 3/67 - 7/71 Further improved 147G, wing extended 5 ft, fuselage extended 1ft (unclear where). Wing area 114 sqft. Airframe was an almost complete redesign of the 147B/G, in order to reduce weight. Detachable nose for camera installation. MARS retrieval. Hycon HR338A camera (military designation KA-88A), 24 inch focal length. Larger wing root fairing compared to the 27 foot wing models. No longer has a 'skid' fairing under the nacelle, since it was intended for MARS recovery. (LB p106)
147J - low-altitude photo recce 29' (8.84m) * 27' (8.23m) *   39 3/66 - 11/67 Developed from 147G. Fairchild KA-60A camera, 3 inch focal length, described as a 'Panoramic High-Speed Aerial Still Picture Camera'. (LB p117)
147N - decoy RPV 23' (7.01m) * 13' (3.96m) *   10 3/66 - 6/66 Basically a BQM-34A Firebee I with radar signature augmentor (traveling wave tube). Parachute recovery system deleted because of expected low survival rate, replaced with sand. Dimensional data of BQM-34A listed by Jane's probably more accurate (22'10.8" (6.98m) length and 12'10.8" (3.93m) span).
147NA AQM-34G ECM 26'0" (7.92m) # 14'6" (4.42m) #   24 8/68 - 9/71 Usually fitted with ALE-2 chaff-dispensing pods on underwing pylons.
147NC AQM-34H ECM 26'0" (7.92m) # 14'6" (4.42m) #   43 7/72 - 12/72 Different nose shape, more cilindrical than other versions, with the nose tip pointed downwards. This nose appears to have been developed around 1962 for an Army version of the Model 124. Usually fitted with ALE-2 chaff-dispensing pods on underwing pylons.
147NC(M1) AQM-34J low-altitude photo recce 26'0" (7.92m) # 14'6" (4.42m) #   52 ? Gap-filler version until the 147SC became available. Acton KA-85 camera, 3 inch focal length, described as a panoramic camera. Same nose shape as Model 124NC / AQM-34H but with camera windows
147NP -         8 6/67 - 9/67 KB-10A strike camera, 3 inch focal length (as used in OV-1 and RF-8)
147NQ -         10 5/68 - 12/68 Low-level, high speed, short range version of the NX, used to perform daily missions over Haiphong harbor. Fitted with a Fairchild KA-60C camera, 3 inch focal length, in a nose section similar to that of the NC(M-1). No rear fuselage plug. No flight programmer, controlled directly from DC-130
147NRE - low-altitude photo night recce       4 5/67 - 9/67  
147NX - decoy RPV with camera 23' (7.01m) * 13' (3.96m) *   10 3/66 - 6/66 Similar to 147N, but also fitted with a camera (for opportunity photos) and parachute recovery system reinstalled. (LB p112)
147SA - low-altitude photo recce       40 12/67 - 5/68 Fairchild F415Y camera (military designation KA-89A), 3 inch focal length.
147SB - low-altitude photo recce       40 3/68 - 1/69 Fairchild F415Y camera (military designation KA-89A), 3 inch focal length.
147SC AQM-34L low-altitude photo recce 30'0" (9.14m) #
can't be correct
13'0" (3.96m) #   400+ 1/69 - 6/73 I think the length should be around 27 ft like the 147A. Fairchild F415Y camera (military designation KA-89A), 3 inch focal length. The L(TV) had a video camera.
147SC/TV AQM-34L(TV) low-altitude photo recce ? 13'0" (3.96m) #   ?   The L(TV) had a video camera that allowed to operator to fly the Firebee visually. Confirmed is a version that had an extended radome with a flat plate on the front; angle of attack sensor and doppler were removed. The radome contained a video camera looking through a moving mirror system. In 'Navigation' mode it would give forward view. In 'Recce' mode, it would give left oblique, down, and right oblique views in quick succession. The 'Recce' signal was stored for processing later. Possibly a simpler version was used too, with only a simple forward looking video camera.
147SD AQM-34M low-altitude photo recce 30'0" (9.14m) #
can't be correct
14'6" (4.42m) #   87 6/74 - 4/75 I believe the span should be 13'0" (3.96m) as for the 147SC, see LB p211 and p213. But p212 drawing suggest extended wingtips. Possibly both were used? It can carry 67 gallon tanks drop tanks, always with long span wingtips. Originally equiped with Fairchild F415Y camera (military designation KA-89A, 3 inch focal length), later with Fairchild KS-120A camera with much increased film capacity. The KS-120A is described as basically a KA-60C modified by adding a larger 6000 foot capacity magazine.

The M was cooled by an open liquid ammonia cooling system. The ammonia tank was in the forward compartment, behind the camera and film magazines. The heat exchanger was in the aft compartment where the ammonia vaporized and was exhausted overboard.
147SDL AQM-34M(L) low-altitude photo recce 30'0" (9.14m) #
can't be correct
14'6" (4.42m) #       A number of M versions were fitted with LORAN to further improve navigation accuracy. Possibly the only external clue is the LORAN wire antenna, fitted on the left side of the engine nacelle at a 45 degree angle, and bent backwards by a small strut. The strut and antenna were designed to break away when the drone was set down after a flight.
147SK - low-altitude photo recce       10 11/69 - 6/70 Special project for the Navy. The SK was largely identical to the SC, but fitted for ground launch. It was the first version without a ventral fin on the tail cone, and therefore fitted with endplates on the horizontal tails.
147SRE AQM-34K low-altitude photo night recce 29'0" (8.84m) # 14'6" (4.42m) #   20 11/68 - 10/69 CA-120E near IR-camera, 3.9 inch focal length.
147T AQM-34P high-altitude photo recce 30'0" (9.14m) # 32'0" (9.75m) # J100-CA-100
2800 lbf
84 4/69 - 9/70 Model 147H airframe combined with new Continental J100 engine of 2800 lbf thrust. Spine fairing extended forward. Shares large wing root fairing and absent 'skid' fairing on nacelle lower side with the Model 147H / AQM-34N. Seems to lacks the wing-tip anti-flutter weights of the TE and TF. Possibly related to the absence of pylon tanks, which appear to have been introduced with the TE. Hycon HR338A camera (military designation KA-88A), 24 inch focal length.
147TE AQM-34Q ELINT 30'0" (9.14m) # 32'0" (9.75m) # J100-CA-100
2800 lbf
19 2/70 - 6/73 ELINT version of Model 147T / AQM-34P. Wing-tip anti-flutter weights added. Capable of carrying pylon tanks. No Doppler.
147TF AQM-34R ELINT 30'0" (9.14m) # 32'0" (9.75m) # J100-CA-100
2800 lbf
20 2/73 - 6/75 Externally similar to 147TE / AQM-34Q, but no AoA probe on the radome, and a small blade aerial on the nose. No Doppler.
? YAQM-34U experimental       6 72 - 74? Six AQM-34Ls were supplied by SAC to Lear Siegler Astronics Division under project 'Update'. L-168 was one of them, displayed as U-168 at a May 1973 Edwards Open House. In an attempt to produce a much better performing RPV (navigation accuracy, controllability, checkout time) nearly all original systems were removed (engine was retained), and new systems were installed. One crashed during test flights. The remaining five were presumably returned, and were reportedly converted to BGM-34Cs.
255 AQM-34V   26'0" (7.92m) # 14'6" (4.42m) #   ~60    

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