XQM-103 high-maneuvrability RPV

An interesting offshoot of the AQM-34 recce drone is the XQM-103 high-maneuvrability RPV. Very little information is available: 'Fireflies and other and other UAVs' by William Wagner and William Sloan has half a page of text (page 104) and a single photo.

Robert Chisman was the airframe project engineer of the development team at Teledyne-Ryan, and supplied the following information:

Basically it was a 147J with the outer wing section removed and a special tip added to the inboard panel. The spar was beefed to extend the flight design G load. The fuselage was already strong, for it was designed to take high loads in recovery. In flight test the design G load was exceeded by a wide margin, so much so that the engine compressor rubbed the housing. Most of the benefit was expanded design capability. There was some beef up wing structure but not as much as would be required under standard combat aircraft safety margins.

The real technology change was the new digital flight control system that could be preprogrammed for combat specific maneuvers. Also the a remote pilot could take direct control of pitch, roll rate and yaw. Previously the pilot could control only direction, altitude, power or command a pre set roll angle. Experiments were conducted on agility using various combination of control. Lou Pico was the man responsible for the electronic equipment. It was his idea to use a digital computer chip and he was the one that integrated that effort.

Other changes were required in fuel system, engine control, and gyroscope to allow inverted conditions. The camera was used to see the horizon and to fly to a ground target. I don't recall the details of the nose camera but I don't think it was sophisticated.

The XQM-103 showed the air to air potential of the AQM-34 RPV.

Robert kindly provided the photo shown below; for the first time we can see it in color. Of note is the gray patch on the parachute cone: it is the speed brake!

Craig Kaston saw the XQM-103 at an Open House at Edwards on 2 November 1979, some four years after the project was terminated prematurely. The basic paint scheme is retained, but the fin is now completely painted black, the speed-brake equiped parachute cone is gone and replaced by a (standard ?) black one, and a panel above the left side of the horizontal stabilizer is missing. The weirdest modification is found on the video nose: a nose boom (possibly formerly equiped with a yaw/pitch vane assembly) has been added, and it features cross-hairs for video camera which is painted as a bloodshot eyeball ! Craig also remembered it had no engine. The color photo was taken by Frank Nuanez Jr, the black and white photos by Craig.

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