Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
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North American MQM-42 Redhead/Roadrunner

In the late 1950s, North American began to design a supersonic target drone, which eventually led to the Model NA-273 Redhead/Roadrunner, which first flew in 1961. It was adaopted by the U.S. Army as a high-performance target for surface-to-air missile test and training purposes. It was mainly used for training with the MIM-23 Hawk air-defense missile system.

The Redhead/Roadrunner (Redhead was the high-altitude, Roadrunner the low-altitude variant) was a ramjet-powered drone, which was launched by a solid-propellant booster from the same launcher as the U.S. Army's MGR-3 Little John rocket. When ramjet ignition speed was reached, the booster was dropped, and the drone could proceed at speeds between Mach 0.9 and Mach 2+ and altitudes between 90 m (300 ft) and 18000 m (60000 ft). For flight control, it used an altitude-hold system, which could be overridden by radio commands from the ground controller. The recovery system, triggered by command or automatically (in case of system failures or fuel exhaustion), consisted of a retro rocket and a single parachute.

Photo: U.S. Army

In June 1963, the Redhead/Roadrunner was designated as MQM-42A. It remained in use by the U.S. Army until the mid-1970s.


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

Data for MQM-42A:

Length7.57 m (24 ft 10 in)
Wingspan1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)
Diameter30 cm (12 in)
Weight400 kg (900 lb)
Speed> Mach 2
Ceiling18000 m (60000 ft)
Range400 km (250 miles)
PropulsionBooster: Rocketdyne solid-fuel rocket; 26.7 kN (6000 lb)
Sustainer: Marquardt MA-74 ramjet

Main Sources

[1] R.T. Pretty, D.H.R. Archer (eds.): "Jane's Weapon Systems 1970-71", McGraw-Hill, 1970
[2] James J. Haggerty (ed.): "1970 United States Aircraft, Missiles and Spacecraft", National Aerospace Education Council, 1970
[3] Norman J. Bowman: "The Handbook of Rockets and Guided Missiles", Perastadion Press, 1963

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Last Updated: 1 July 2007