Hill Aerospace Museum Model 147SB

The Hill Aerospace Museum has an AQM-34 in its 'Cold War' collection. The history of this Firebee is not yet fully established, but it has been partly reconstructed. The 6514th Test Squadron moved from Edwards AFB to Hill AFB in 1972/3 time frame due to range requirements. The unit had a Firebee on display in front of their hangar, fitted with an AGM-65 and a Mk81 laser-guided bomb. In 1996 this Firebee was transferred to the museum. Craig Kaston researched the 6514th Test Squadron's history and found a 1972 entry for a drone with the contractor designation '147 SB-17' on strength. The Air Force serial number was 67-21672.

The Firebee's configuration is confusing. Like many museum Firebees it is a composite airframe. The museum lists it as an AQM-34L, but that appears to be incorrect. It carries 67 gallon tanks on wings with long tips as if it were an AQM-34M, but it has no endplates on the horizontals. The right side of the vertical tail shows remains of 'SB-17' (twice actually if you look very hard), suggesting that at least the tail belonged to an Model 147SB, the model preceeding the Model 147SC / AQM-34L. The camera window configuration looks slightly different from that of an AQM-34L: it has a transparant center window, that is blanked off on the USAF Museum's AQM-34L. Compared to the same AQM-34L, the rear belly vents (behind the exhaust) are missing. A peculair detail is that the rear fuselage shows attachment points for a ground launch RATO unit, a feature absent on all AQM-34's except the AQM-34V (compare with this photo, just to the right of 74-2147). For the time being this Firebee will be listed as a Model 147SB, although it is far from sure that the fuselage belongs to the SB tail.

The condition of the Firebee is reasonably good. The black gel coat of the glass-fiber radome has peeled off on the top side. The paint on the camera hatch just aft of the radome seems to be wearing thin, and that on the battery cover behind it shows crazing or cracking. The black tips of the wings appears to wearing thin, the paint on the tips of the horizontals seems to hold better.

The following markings can be seen, partially overpainted. Both fuselage sides show remains of 'U.S. AIR FORCE' in Helvetica. 'SB-17' used to be painted in a four inch stencil (visible if you stare long enough!) and Helvetica on the right side of the vertical tail, ' 6514īTH ' on the left side. Surprisingly a national marking is applied to the left wing.

On 1 June 2006, Dane Ligon visited the museum and kindly shot a walkaround photo series for this website.

Duane Kaiser also visited the Hill museum in June 2006, and he shot an even more extensive walkaround photo series. The photos show how the parachute riser slot in the spine is covered by a fiberglass fairing that was reportedly fitted for some missions.

Somewhere between 2006 and 2010, the Hill Firebee was repainted. It is now orange overall with 'Cindy's Fighter B' painted on the nose. The first photos appeared on the website of Parrothead Jeff - Utah Vacation Saga Post Three.

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