×
Aviation & Aerospace - Airpower 2024 - Aircraft by Country - Aircraft Manufacturers Vehicles & Artillery - Armor 2024 - Armor by Country - Armor Manufacturers Infantry Small Arms - Warfighter 2024 - Small Arms by Country - Arms Manufacturers Warships & Submarines - Navies 2024 - Ships by Country - Shipbuilders U.S. Military Pay 2024 Military Ranks Special Forces by Country

Ryan AQM-91 Firefly / Compass Arrow


Reconnaissance Drone


United States | 1968



"The stealthy, reconnaissance-minded Ryan AQM-91 Firefly was also known under the name of Compass Arrow during its short time as a long-range reconnaissance drone."



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 06/04/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
Teledyne Ryan / Ryan Aeronautical produced the AQM-91 "Firefly" as a stealth-minded, high-altitude, photo-reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). Development began in the late-1960s with the design intended for use by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)as well as the United States Air Force (USAF) for secret over-flights of Chinese airspace - with particular interest given to its growing nuclear sites. First flight was in September of 1968. The product also carried the name of "Compass Arrow".

To fulfill the requirements, the Firefly was given an operational altitude of 78,000 feet with a mission endurance time of 4.5 hours and range out to 2,000 miles. Its onboard photographic equipment allowed for vast swathes of territory to be photographed from 15 miles up with detail providing clarity down to one foot. Externally, the UAS displayed a rather conventional aircraft-type configuration with swept-back wings, a twin-vertical rudder tail unit and central fuselage nacelle. The powerplant was fitted over the fuselage spine as a single General Electric YJ97-GE-3 turbojet engine of 4,000lb thrust. "Stealth" qualities were covered through angled surfaces, special body coatings and onboard electronics.

By design, the AQM-91 was intended for air-launching from a host mothership - this being a Lockheed DC-130E "Hercules" aircraft (a drone-controlling variant of the famous transport aircraft) - and thusly not fitted with its own launching facility. From there, the drone would have operated under its own power and self-guidance utilizing its onboard systems. However, a manual override function allowed for ground controllers to assume function as needed.

With some thawing of China-U.S. relations in the early 1970s, the aircraft no longer found a specific mission requirement within the CIA/USAF, this despite some 28 of the type completed (eight prototypes with twenty production-quality units). As such, the line never flew a single mission over Chinese airspace in its service life and was ultimately discontinued by 1973.

Ryan Aeronautical was founded in 1934 and became part of Teledyne (as Teledyne-Ryan) in 1969. In 1999, Teledyne-Ryan was absorbed under the Northrop Grumman brand label.

Content ©MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Ryan AQM-91 Firefly / Compass Arrow Reconnaissance Drone.
1 x General Electric YJ97-GE3 engine developing 4,000lbs of thrust.
Propulsion
78,740 ft
24,000 m | 15 miles
Service Ceiling
2,001 miles
3,220 km | 1,739 nm
Operational Range
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Structure
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Ryan AQM-91 Firefly / Compass Arrow Reconnaissance Drone.
0
(UNMANNED)
Crew
34.1 ft
10.40 m
O/A Length
47.6 ft
(14.50 m)
O/A Width
3,803 lb
(1,725 kg)
Empty Weight
5,512 lb
(2,500 kg)
MTOW
Variants
Notable series variants as part of the Ryan AQM-91 Firefly / Compass Arrow family line.
AQM-91 "Firefly" / "Compass Arrow" - Base Series Designation.
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Ryan AQM-91 Firefly / Compass Arrow. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 28 Units

Contractor(s): Ryan Aeronautical / Teledyne-Ryan - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States ]
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
28
36183
44000
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
Aviation Timeline
EarlyYrs
WWI
Interwar
WWII
ColdWar
Postwar
Modern
Future
1 / 1
Image of the Ryan AQM-91 Firefly / Compass Arrow
Image courtesy of the USAF Museum of Dayton, Ohio, USA.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
RECONNAISSANCE
X-PLANE
UNMANNED
Recognition
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Ryan AQM-91 Firefly / Compass Arrow Reconnaissance Drone appears in the following collections:
HOME
AVIATION INDEX
AIRCRAFT BY COUNTRY
AIRCRAFT MANUFACTURERS
COMPARE AIRCRAFT
AIRCRAFT BY CONFLICT
AIRCRAFT BY TYPE
AIRCRAFT BY DECADE
COLD WAR AIRCRAFT
X-PLANE AIRCRAFT
DRONE TECHNOLOGY
Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Cookies

2024 Military Pay Scale Military Ranks U.S. DoD Dictionary Conversion Calculators Military Alphabet Code Military Map Symbols US 5-Star Generals WW2 Weapons by Country

The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com. No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.

Part of a network of sites that includes Global Firepower, WDMMA.org, WDMMW.org, and World War Next.


©2024 www.MilitaryFactory.com • All Rights Reserved • Content ©2003-2024 (21yrs)