Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Appendix 4: Undesignated Vehicles
GM A-1
Copyright © 2005 Andreas Parsch

General Motors A-1

In 1938, the U.S. Army Air Corps requested proposals to design an "aerial torpedo" aircraft (a surface-to-surface cruise missile), which should be able to hit a two square mile target at a distance of 32 km (20 miles). However, no viable responses from the aviation industry came forward. In September 1939, unmanned aviation pioneer Charles F. Kettering (see Kettering "Bug"), then working for General Motors, approached the Army Air Corps with a proposal to build a radio-controlled flying bomb. The Army accepted, and after formal specifications had been drawn up, ordered 10 examples in February 1941 (in July 1942, five more were ordered). The flying bomb was called General Motors (GM) A-1 (not to be confused with the Fleetwings A-1 aerial target of the same time period).

Photo: USAF
GM A-1

The GM A-1 was a conventional high-wing monoplane powered by a 150 kW (200 hp) piston engine. It was launched from a four-wheeled dolly, and could carry a 225 kg (500 lb) bomb over a distance of 640 km (400 miles). The initial series of four flight tests in November/December 1941 was not very successful. The first A-1 crashed immediately after take-off, and with the others it was found out that the preset and radio controls didn't work satisfactorily. Subsequent changes included a modified airframe and a new catapult launcher. A series of three test flights in March/April 1942 was a bit more successful, but control characteristics and general reliability were still rather poor.

Another slight redesign of the A-1 brought a landing gear, a new monorail launcher and a TV sensor in the nose. The latter feature was presumably intended to enable effective guidance from out-of-sight distances. Three flight attempts with this version between July and September were all unsuccessful. The final two A-1 flights occurred in late May 1943, but the basic problems of inadequate control had not been solved. Therefore the A-1 program was formally cancelled in late 1943. By that time, the Army had already ordered prototypes of the significantly larger radio-controlled flying bombs of the BQ-series (see e.g. BQ-1/BQ-2 and BQ-3), which appeared more promising.


Data for GM A-1:

Length4.97 m (16.3 ft)
Wingspan6.43 m (21.1 ft)
Weight635 kg (1400 lb)
Speed320 km/h (200 mph)
Range640 km (400 miles)
PropulsionPiston engine; 150 kW (200 hp)
Payload225 kg (500 lb) high-explosive

Main Sources

[1] Kenneth P.Werrell: "The Evolution of the Cruise Missile", Air University Press, 1985

Back to Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 4

Last Updated: 16 May 2005