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Fairchild BQ-3

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.



1 (optional)


52 ft 8 in (16.05 m)


37 ft (11 m)


31 ft 1 in (9.47 m)

Gross weight

15,300 lb (6,940 kg)


2 × Ranger V-770-15 inline piston engines,

520 hp (390 kW) each


Maximum speed

220 mph (350 km/h, 190 kn)


1,500 mi (2,400 km, 1,300 nmi)


4,000 pounds (1,800 kg) warhead

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