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Northrop MQM/BQM-74 Chukar

In the early 1960s, the U.S. Navy had a requirement for a small jet-propelled aerial target for anti-aircraft gunnery and missile training and system evaluation. Northrop Ventura (formerly Radioplane) built their Model NV-105 to that specification in 1964. The delta-winged NV-105 was followed by the straight-winged NV-105A in 1965 which was eventually mass-produced for the U.S. Navy from 1968 as MQM-74A.

The MQM-74A is powered by a Williams J400-WR-400 (Model WR24-6) turbojet, and can be launched from land or ship-based zero-length launchers aided by two solid-propellant JATO rocket bottles. The target has a command guidance system, and the operator can track it either visually or through radar. The Chukar can be recovered by parachute, which is deployed by remote command or automatically when the command link is damaged. Mission equipment of MQM-74 targets can include passive and active radar augmentation devices, wingtip-mounted infrared flares, a smoke system for visual augmentation, and tow targets. There is also a floatation gear kit for recovery over water.

Photo: via Jane's

When the Navy needed a slightly faster target in the early 1970s, Northrop developed the experimental MQM-74B, which was not built in quantity. However, it led to the new MQM-74C Chukar II which was produced from 1974 on. The MQM-74C is slightly larger than the MQM-74A and uses a higher-rated J400-WR-401 (Model WR24-7) engine, which increases maximum speed by about 185 km/h (100 knots). About 3200 MQM-74A/C targets have been built for the U.S. Navy, plus many more for NATO and other countries.

Photo: Skytamer Images

In 1975, Northrop was selected by the USAF as one of the finalists for the TEDS (Tactical Expendable Drone System) competition. Northrop modified four MQM-74Cs as Model NV-130 for the TEDS requirement, removing the parachute recovery equipment, and adding more fuel space and ECM equipment. The NV-130 was evaluated in 1976/77, but the TEDS program was cancelled because of lack of funds.

The BQM-74C Chukar III is a significantly improved derivative of the MQM-74C. It was first tested in 1978/79 and built in quantity from 1980. The BQM-74C has a new cylindrical forward fuselage, adds air-launch capability, and uses a new microprocessor-based A/A37G-13 flight control system allowing much more complex pre-programmed flight profiles. The initial BQM-74Cs used an uprated J400-WR-402 engine, which was changed to the J400-WR-403 in later production runs. For surface launches, the BQM-74C uses two MK 117 MOD 0 solid-fuel rocket boosters. Northrop also developed a reconnaissance version of the BQM-74C with a TV camera in the nose and a video data link transmitter. The reconnaissance equipment was provided as a kit, allowing rapid conversions of BQM-74Cs between target and recce configuration. This variant, called BQM-74C/Recce, was evaluated in the mid-1980s, but not procured by the U.S. Navy.

Photo: Konstantinos Pantios

For Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the USAF acquired a small number of BQM-74C targets and modified them for use as decoys. It has been reported that these makeshift decoys significantly reduced allied losses during the opening hours of the conflict.

The BQM-74D is totally unrelated to the BQM-74C and BQM-74E. Instead, that designation has been allocated in the mid-1970s to a U.S. Army variant of the MQM-74C with a precision navigation system and sensors for target acquisition and battlefield surveillance. I have no details of the developmental history of the BQM-74D, but it can be assumed that it was not used operationally by the Army.

The current production version of the Chukar is the BQM-74E, an improved derivative of the BQM-74C, which was first introduced by the U.S. Navy in 1992. It uses the uprated J400-WR-404 engine, new software, and has greater endurance and range than the BQM-74C. The BQM-74E is currently used as the standard low-cost subsonic target for anti-aircraft missile training and evaluation. It can simulate anti-ship cruise missiles (using a radar altimeter, it can fly as low as 3 m (10 ft)) as well as manoeuvering attack aircraft. In addition to the standard equipment suitable for earlier MQM/BQM-74 versions, the BQM-74E can carry the latest target augmentation devices. These include the AN/DPN-90(V) radar tracking beacon, the AN/DPN-88 IFF transponder, AN/DRQ-4 and AN/DSQ-50 scoring systems, AN/DKW-3 and -4(V) target control transponders and the AN/DPT-2 radar threat simulator. For air launches, the BQM-74E is currently carried by C-130 aircraft.

Photo: Northrop Grumman

More than 2000 BQM-74C/E targets have so far been delivered to the U.S. Navy, and production is currently continuing with the BQM-74E. In March 2002, Northrop Grumman received a contract for development of the BQM-74F, originally marketed by the company as "Target 2000". This is an improved swept-wing version of the BQM-74E with higher speed (Mach 0.93), manoeuverability and an endurance of almost two hours. The IMU/GPS-based waypoint navigation system and new mission planning software (allowing in-flight modification of all parameters) greatly enhance the versatility of the target. The first BQM-74F was unveiled to the public in August 2005.

Photo: Northrop Grumman


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

Data for MQM-74A/C, BQM-74C/E/F:

Length3.46 m (11 ft 4.1 in)3.87 m (12 ft 8.4 in)3.95 m (12 ft 11.5 in) 4.5 m (15 ft)
Wingspan1.69 m (5 ft 6.7 in)1.76 m (5 ft 9.4 in)2.1 m (7 ft)
Diameter35.3 cm (13.9 in)
Height0.70 m (2 ft 3.7 in)0.71 m (2 ft 4.1 in)0.72 m (2 ft 4.2 in)?
Weight (incl. booster)193 kg (425 lb)223 (492 lb) Ground launch: 233 kg (514 lb)
Air launch: 199 kg (438 lb)
Ground launch: 270 kg (595 lb)
Air launch: 211 kg (465 lb)
280 kg (620 lb)
Speed740 km/h (400 knots)925 km/h (500 knots)1000 km/h (540 knots) > 1110 km/h (600 knots)
Ceiling12200 m (40000 ft)
Range440 km (237 nm)610 km (330 nm)830 km (450 nm)1185 km (640 nm) > 1670 km (900 nm)
PropulsionWilliams J400-WR-400
turbojet; 0.54 kN (121 lb)
Williams J400-WR-401
turbojet; 0.80 kN (180 lb)
Williams J400-WR-402
turbojet; 0.80 kN (180 lb)
Williams J400-WR-404
turbojet; 1.07 kN (240 lb)
Williams J400-WR-?
turbojet; 1.32 kN (300 lb)

Main Sources

[1] Kenneth Munson: "World Unmanned Aircraft", Jane's, 1988
[2] Kenneth Munson (ed.): "Jane's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Targets, Issue 15", Jane's, 2000
[3] "DOD 4120.15-L: Model Designation of Military Aerospace Vehicles", Department of Defense, 1977
[4] Northrop Grumman Website

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Last Updated: 14 October 2005