The Fairchild BQ-3, also known as the Model 79, was an early expendable unmanned aerial vehicle referred to at the time as an “assault drone” developed by Fairchild Aircraft from the company’s AT-21 Gunner advanced trainer during the Second World War for use by the United States Army Air Forces.
Two examples of the type were built and flight-tested, but the progress of guided missiles rendered the assault drone quickly obsolete, and the type was not produced.
Development of the BQ-3 began in October 1942, under a program for the development of “aerial torpedoes”, later and more commonly referred to as “assault drones”, that had been instigated in March of that year.
Fairchild was awarded a contract for the construction of two XBQ-3 prototypes, based largely on the AT-21 Gunner advanced gunnery trainer already in United States Army Air Forces service.
The XBQ-3 was a twin-engined, low-wing aircraft, fitted with retractable tricycle landing gear and a twin-finned empennage; although the aircraft was intended to be operated by radio control with television assist, a two-seat cockpit was included in the design for testing and ferry flights.
Power was provided by two Ranger V-770 inline piston engines of 520 horsepower (390 kW) each; up to 4,000 pounds (1,800 kg) of explosives could be carried by the aircraft in unmanned configuration.
Like the contemporary Fleetwings BQ-2, the aircraft would be destroyed in the act of striking the target.
The first flight of the XBQ-3 took place in July 1944; later that month, one of the prototypes was severely damaged in a forced landing.
Despite the accident, flight testing continued; however, the assault drone was determined to have no significant advantage over conventional bombers, and advances in the field of guided missiles were rapidly rendering the concept obsolete.
As a result, the program was cancelled towards the end of 1944.