Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Appendix 1: Early Missiles and Drones
Copyright © 2002 Andreas Parsch

Bell RTV-A-4/X-9 Shrike

In May 1947, Bell received a development contract for the ASM-A-2 Rascal (later B-63/GAM-63) air-to-surface missile (see GAM-63 article for further details). A reduced-scale testbed was ordered as RTV-A-4 Shrike. The latter was to test the operational missile's general aerodynamic design, radio control system, rocket propulsion system, and general handling and launching procedures. The first glide flight of an unpowered RTV-A-4 dummy occurred in April 1949, and in May 1950 the first unsuccessful attempt at a powered launch was made. The first fully successful flight was the fifth one in November 1950.

Photo: Bell Aerospace via Jay Miller

The RTV-A-4 was powered by a two-chamber liquid-propellant rocket engine, initially an Aerojet unit, but later a Bell XLR65-BA-1. It was launched from a trapeze launcher in the bomb bay of a specially modified EB-50D aircraft, and guided by radio commands from the launching aircraft. Flight control and stabilization was by two all-moving forward vertical tails, twin (dorsal/ventral) fins with rudders, small canards with movable trailing edge surfaces, and fixed aft wings. The Shrike could reach a range of about 80 km (50 miles) at a speed of more than Mach 1.5. At the end of the powered flight, the RTV-A-4 could be brought down by parachute for a relatively soft landing to recover the instrumentation package.

Photo: Bell Aerospace via Jay Miller

In 1951, the RTV-A-4 was redesignated as X-9, and the flight test program continued until January 1953. The X-9 was a rather successful test vehicle, and some thought was actually given to production of a limited number of Shrikes as interim operational missiles until the B-63/GAM-63 Rascal would become available. However, the limited range and payload of the X-9 eventually killed that proposal. In total, 31 RTV-A-4/X-9 vehicles were built.


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

Data for X-9:

Length6.93 m (22 ft 9 in)
Wingspan2.39 m (7 ft 10 in)
Diameter56 cm (22 in)
Weight1590 kg (3500 lb)
Speed> Mach 1.5
Ceiling20000 m (65000 ft)
Range80 km (50 miles)
PropulsionBell XLR65-BA-1 liquid-fueled rocket; 13.3 kN (3000 lb)

Main Sources

[1] Jay Miller: "The X-Planes, X-1 to X-45", Midland Publishing, 2001

Back to Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 1

Last Updated: 28 November 2002