Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Copyright © 2002 Andreas Parsch

Teledyne Ryan BQM-111 Firebrand

After the cancellation of the BQM-90 program in 1973, the Navy had to look for other target missiles to simulate attacking anti-ship missiles. In 1975, it was decided to convert some obsolete RIM-8 Talos missiles to MQM-8G Vandal targets as a short-term solution to simulate the terminal phase of a missile attack. In parallel, the ZBQM-111A program was defined to develop a completely new target vehicle which was to be able to replicate all phases of an anti-ship missile's mission profile. In May 1977, Teledyne Ryan was awarded the ZBQM-111A development contract for their Model 258 Firebrand target.

Photo: via Jane's

The Firebrand was designed as a parachute-recoverable ramjet-powered target suitable for ground and air launch. Solid-propellant rocket boosters propelled the BQM-111 to ramjet ignition speed of Mach 1.2. After an air launch from a DC-130, the Firebrand could cruise at Mach 2.0 at 12200 m (40000 ft) before diving to 90 m (300 ft) for the final run towards the "attacked" ship. The target was guided by a pre-programmed radio command guidance system with options for manual override. Any uncommanded deviation from the pre-planned mission profile would lead to immediate start of the recovery sequence to avoid endangering ships by an uncontrolled high-speed vehicle.

It was originally planned to build nine Firebrand test vehicles, and to begin flight tests in 1983. However, the ZBQM-111A program ran into funding difficulties. It also didn't help that the Firebrand design with its two ramjets and boosters came out as a heavy vehicle, possibly only marginally suitable for launch from the surface or from C-130 aircraft. The program was finally cancelled in January 1982. The Navy decided to continue the use of the MQM-8 Vandal instead, and to formulate a new requirement for a dedicated anti-ship missile target. The latter eventually resulted in the AQM-127 SLAT (Supersonic Low-Altitude Target) program.


Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for ZBQM-111A:

Length10.4 m (34 ft)
Wingspan2.7 m (9 ft)
Diameter71 cm (28 in)
Weight (incl. boosters)2800 kg (6200 lb)
SpeedMach 2.1
Ceiling12200 m (40000 ft)
PropulsionBooster: Thiokol solid-fueled rockets
Sustainer: 2x Marquardt ramjet; 22 kN (5000 lb) each

Main Sources

[1] William Wagner, William P. Sloan: "Fireflies and other UAVs", Midland Publishing, 1992
[2] Kenneth Munson: "World Unmanned Aircraft", Jane's, 1988

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Last Updated: 8 October 2002