The Firebee flies its final mission

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Anthony J. Hyatt
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Two setbacks couldn't keep the BQM-34P "Firebee" sub-scale aerial target drone from launching on its final mission Dec. 15 at the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron Launch Facility.

Due to a ground abort, the Firebees last flight was postponed to Dec. 12. The ground abort was caused by consecutive engine roll-backs; the engine shut down twice and was unable to restart, said Maj. Kevin Brackin, 82nd ATRS Sub-Scale Aerial Target Flight commander.   Then sea fog rolled in and grounded the mission again.

But finally the "Firebee" launched.

This specific drone has carried the load for air-to-air engagements at the 82nd ATRS and will be officially replaced with the Air Force Follow-On Sub-Scale Aerial Target BQM-167A "Skeeter."

"The BQM-34P arrived at Tyndall Air Force Base in 1958," said Maj. Ronald Miller, 82nd ATRS operations officer. "It has logged more than 1500 hours flown."

With speeds that reach 0.96 mach, the Firebee has been the most capable and reliable high performance aerial target system according to Major Miller.

"The primary mission is to simulate tactical threats by enemy aircraft and missiles for defense readiness training, air-to-air combat training and the development and evaluation of weapons systems," said Major Brackin.

"The sub-scale drone BQM-34 is like a 1970's Civic, while the BQM-167 is like a 2007 Civic," said Major Brackin. "While the F-4 Phantom, a full-scale drone, is like a sports utility vehicle, in which it can carry a heavier load."

The "Skeeter" is constructed mainly of carbon fiber composites, which makes the airframe significantly lighter than the similar-sized Firebee, therefore significantly increasing the range for a given payload weight, according to Major Brackin.

Not a well-known squadron by many, the 82nd ATRS falls under the 53d Weapons Evaluation Group here. The mission of the 82nd is to ensure safe, effective and efficient contractor-provided aerial targets support for DoD weapons test and evaluation programs. It also assures the war fighter receives the best in combat capability; providing Air Combat Command with unique expertise for the thorough testing and integration of fighter avionics/weapons and electronic warfare throughout the testing process and beyond.

Now that the "Firebee" has flown out into the sunset, the BQM-167 while take up the drone missions.