The deployment of BQM-34 Firebee reconnaissance drones during the Vietnam War (and over the PR China) would be worth a ‘book’ (at least).
The BQM-34 Firebee, originally designated the Q-2, was a high-speed target drone for both surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles. It was used primarily for the testing of newly-developed missiles and for the training of fighter-interceptor pilots whose aircraft were armed with missiles.
Capable of being launched from the ground or from an airplane in flight, the Firebee is radio-controlled during its mission by an operator on the ground or aboard an aircraft. Upon being hit by a missile and disabled, or upon completing its mission undamaged, the Firebee is lowered safely to earth by a self-contained parachute.
The deployment of BQM-34 reconnaissance drones during the Vietnam War (and over the PR China) would be worth a ‘book’ (at least).
Ironically, some of their craziest missions were caused by simple programming mistakes. The ‘classic’ between these was the wrong entry for flight altitude: say, 60 – instead of 600ft…
No idea why, but the word is that this happened especially often during reconnaissance sorties to the Kep AB, in North Vietnam. Unsurprisingly, in one case, a miss-programmed AQM-34L came back enveloped in branches and other parts of trees, plus some telephone wires…
The main image of this post is a nice example for how close some of MiGs approached while trying to intercept them: visible is the command console inside a DC-130 drone-carrier, with a screen showing the wing and fin of a North Vietnamese MiG-21….
Another little-known one: most people nowadays think the armed UCAVs appeared only in the early 21st Century.
Actually, AGM-65 Maverick missiles were test-fired from BQM-34s already back in the early 1970s: indeed, there are rumours according to which a few of such UAVs (and C-130s deploying them) were even sent to Israel during the Arab-Israeli War of 1973.
….BTW, an earlier BQM-34 might have been the first US ace of the Vietnam War: reportedly, it caused a loss of five North Vietnamese MiGs in period 1970-1971.
Check out Helion & Company website for books featuring interesting stories written by The Aviation Geek Club contributor Tom Cooper.