Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Copyright © 2002 Andreas Parsch

Lockheed MQM-105 Aquila

The MQM-105 Aquila was the first serious U.S. Army attempt to field a multimission battlefield RPV. As it turned out, it also was the first of a number of failures to do this in a time- and cost-effective way.

The Aquila was originally briefly known as "Little R", and was developed by LMSC (Lockheed Missiles & Space Company) in the early 1970s as a recoverable low-cost mini-RPV for real-time target acquisition, artillery adjustment, target designation by laser, and aerial reconnaissance. After the U.S. Army had expressed interest in the vehicle in 1974, a program to flight test XMQM-105A prototypes was begun. The first of these flew in December 1975, and the tests established the operational performance characteristics and the training requirements for the Aquila. In August 1979, Lockheed was awarded a full-scale development contract for an Aquila TADAR (Target Acquisition, Designation and Aerial Reconnaissance) system. The first flight of a YMQM-105A FSD vehicle occurred in July 1982.

Photo: U.S. Army

The YMQM-105A was a flying-wing type aircraft powered by a two-stroke piston engine driving a pusher propeller. It was launched from a truck-mounted catapult, and recovered by flying it into a truck-mounted net. The Aquila was guided automatically into this net by infrared sensors, and the net could be risen and lowered very quickly to keep a low profile. For training and test flights, the MQM-105 was equipped with a parachute recovery system for emergencies. The major mission payload items included a daylight TV-camera with a laser rangefinder/designator and an autotracker. The TV-camera was stationary, with line-of-sight stabilization and control provided by a gimballed mirror system in a ventral turret. A gimbal-mounted FLIR (Forward-Looking Infrared) package was later also planned for the Aquila to give it a capability for night/all-weather operations. The Aquila's mission could be completely preprogrammed by way of waypoints stored in the vehicle's flight control system. The system included a jamming-resistant two-way datalink for command uplink and telemetry/video downlink.

The YMQM-105A test program met with its share of problems, including vehicle crashes and payload difficulties. However, during operational testing in 1986 and early 1987, the Aquila successfully demonstrated a number of complex tasks. These included finding a target and determining its type in various conditions, tracking and laser-designating a moving target, passing control of the RPV in flight from one ground station to another, and fully automatic net retrieval. At that time, it was planned to award a contract for production of up to 376 MQM-105A Aquila RPVs in late 1987. However, this was not to be. Throughout its full-scale development phase, the Aquila suffered from ever changing and increasing mission requirements, which eventually led to excessive cost overruns. The MQM-105 was finally cancelled in late 1987.


Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for YMQM-105A:

Length2.08 m (6 ft 10 in)
Wingspan3.88 m (12 ft 8.75 in)
Prop diameter0.66 m (2 ft 2 in)
Weight120 kg (265 lb)
Speed210 km/h (130 mph); loiter speed 130 km/h (80 mph)
Ceiling4500 m (14800 ft)
Endurance3.5 hours
PropulsionHerbrandson Dyad 280B two-stroke piston engine; 17.9 kW (24 hp)

Main Sources

[1] Bernard Blake (ed.): "Jane's Weapon Systems 1987-88", Jane's, 1988
[2] Kenneth Munson: "World Unmanned Aircraft", Jane's, 1988

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Last Updated: 18 October 2002