(Courtesy of John Dorgan)

NOTE:  H-53 was placed on jacket should be CH-3C


(Courtesy of John Dorgan)



The AQM-34L (Model 147SC) was the definitive low-altitude photo-reconnaissance variant, and by far the most numerous with several hundred built under USAF "Compass Bin" and "Buffalo Hunter" programs. Some AQM-34Ls were equipped with real-time TV camera/transmitter systems, and these were sometimes called AQM-34L/TV. The 147SC was a very successful aircraft with a mission survivability rate of 87.2%, and the AQM-34L named "Tom Cat" completed 68 successful missions.




The AQM-34Q (147TE), built under the USAF's "Combat Dawn" program. It sported numerous bulbs and aerials on its fuselage and flying surfaces. The last AQM-34Qs were fitted with underwing droptanks for longer range, and these tanks were standard on the ultimate "Combat Dawn" version, the AQM-34R (147TF). Otherwise, the AQM-34R was very similar to the -34Q, but had slightly improved SIGINT equipment.





U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet




Firebee drones flew many types of missions, including photographic reconnaissance, electronic intelligence gathering, and radio communications monitoring. From February 1970 to June 1973, AQM-34Q unmanned aircraft flew 268 missions near North Korea monitoring voice communications (known as communication intelligence or COMINT). Code-named "Combat Dawn," the AQM-34Q was developed after North Korean MiGs shot down a U.S. Navy EC-121 reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace with the loss of all 31 crewmembers. Teledyne Ryan built a total of four prototypes and 15 production AQM-34Qs.


Launched in mid-air from a modified C-130, the AQM-34Q flew a preprogrammed course or was manually flown by a remote operator. It intercepted radio signals from as far as 300 miles away and relayed them in real time to a ground control van. After returning to a safe area over water, the AQM-34Q deployed a parachute. A modified helicopter then hooked the parachute to catch the drone in mid-air -- if the operation, failed the drone was retrieved from the ocean's surface.


The museum's AQM-34Q was nicknamed the Flying Submarine because of the many times it dropped into the ocean. Water recoveries are represented by dolphins and airborne retrievals are represented by parachutes. Placed on display in 2006, it is marked as it appeared in May 1973.    I remember this one well. The reason for the name was the fact that this particular drone seemd to have a liking for swimming. I believe that it was recovered from the ocean at least four times. A picture of the recovery symbols painted on the drone will confirm this. A sucessful mid air retrieval was shown as a parachute while a swim was shown as a drone nose down in the ocean.  (John Dorgan)



Engine: Continental J100 turbojet engine of 2,800 lbs. thrust

Maximum speed: High subsonic

Endurance: Up to 8 hours with external fuel tanks

Ceiling: About 75,000 ft

The Combat Dawn program was based out of Osan AB Korea OLOA and was flown with the same CH-3s, but we had long endurance elint drones that had a loiter time of up to eight hours off the north coast. It made for a long boring day as we had to cover the launch from the 130s and then go back and sit to wait for the recovery phase. We were tasked directly by NSA.

(John Dorgan)