Lockheed MQM-105 Aquila TADAR Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
Despite it never seeing production, just under 1 billion USD was spent on developing the Aquila UAV.
Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The MGM-105 Aquila (Eagle) TADAR (Target Acquisition, Designation and Aerial Reconnaissance) was the first United States Army attempt at securing a reusable Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) capable of conducting a range of mission types. The Aquila was originally developed as "Little R" by Lockheed Missiles and Space Company beginning in the 1970's. Army specifications called for a cost-effective system of small size able to provide the US Army with real-time aerial reconnaissance, target acquisition, artillery observation and laser designation. Unfortunately for the Aquila - and the US Army and Lockheed itself for that matter - the MQM-105 became a bloated and expensive project that never lived up to expectations, forcing the entire development effort to be cancelled.
By 1974, Lockheed and the US Army had partnered for development of the new UAV. In December of 1975, flyable prototypes emerged as the XMQM-105A. By August of 1979, the US Army was fully onboard with the Aquila project and rewarded Lockheed with a contract based on the prototypes. The follow-up developmental model appeared in July of 1982 as the YMQM-105A.
The Aquila design fitted a swept-back wing to a flat fuselage shape housing the UAVs payload and engine. The engine was a Herbrandson Dyad 280B 2-stroke system delivering 24 horsepower to a pusher-type propeller system housed in the rear of the fuselage. On board systems included a fixed daytime TV-camera with an integrated autotracker. A laser designator was also included. A night-vision system utilizing FLIR was planned but never enacted. Communications was provided for via a datalink and video downlink. Performance from the piston engine allowed a top speed of 130 miles per hour with a service ceiling of 14,800 feet and an in-flight time of 3 hours.
Launching was accomplished via a catapult system mounted onto a truck while retreival was via an erected netting to catch the incoming Aquila upon return. Net height was adjustable to protect the vehicle's profile and the Aquila was fitted with infrared sensors that automatically brought led itself into the netting.
As may be expected in such pioneering efforts, the Aquila project met with its own inherent deficiencies. Several Aquilas were lost or damaged in crashes while the cost of the project seemingly ballooned with each passing month to go along with changing mission parameters.
The MGM-105 project was officially cancelled in 1987 despite nearly 1 billion dollars sunk into the project. Some 376 Aquila's were slated to be built. Lockheed was also considering an export version.