Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The first American UAV bomber

History Channel was talking about the Predator and Global Hawk UAVs of the current War on Terror. Pretty interesting until they trotted out an inaccuracy.

The Predator is not the first American UAV that was designed to carry bombs and missiles. That honor goes to a VietNam vet, the Teledyne Ryan Firebee drone. Due to the success of Firebees in spoofing and luring North VietNamese SA-2s and MiG-21s to come out and battle, some in the US Air Force got a new version of the Firebee designed. Four prototype BGM-34As were built and even fired AGM-65 Maverick missiles at simulated SA-2 sites. Then the BGM-34B was born and tested in 1973/74 time frame. Eight were produced and some were even fitted with a laser designator for smart bombs. Testing continued until 1978 on the BGM-34C version but no funds were allocated to carry the program forward. Thus the first armed American UAV program died.

It is historically correct to say it was not until the CIA used a Predator in Yemen that the UAVs got to fire shots in anger for the first time.

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