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MQM-105 Aquila
Role Target-designator drone
National origin United States
Manufacturer Lockheed
First flight 1982

The Lockheed MQM-105 Aquila (Eagle) was the first small battlefield drone developed in the United States during the 1970s to act as a target designator for the United States Army.

The modern history of the Army's battlefield drone efforts actually began in 1973, when DARPA began a program called PRAERIE, which tested a UAV with a TV camera and a laser target designator. PRAIRIE was able to target a truck and guide a laser-guided bomb onto it. DARPA does not have a charter to build operational systems, and passed the concept on to the Army, which decided to proceed with the next phase of development. Ford Aerospace had implemented PRAIRIE, but the Army put the follow-on effort up for bid, and Lockheed was the low bidder.

The MQM-105 Aquila was a tailless aircraft, driven by a 17.9 kW (24 hp) piston engine with a pusher propeller, and carrying a FLIR imager in a turret in the belly. The Aquila was catapult launched and recovered by flying into a net, with an emergency parachute backup recovery system. Initial flight of a demonstrator was in 1975, leading to a full-scale development contract in 1979 and flight of a full prototype in 1982 as part of the target acquisition, designation and aerial reconnaissance (TADAR) program intended for use with the M712 Copperhead artillery ammunition.[1]

Lockheed also considered a variant of the Aquila named the "Altair" for international sales, but the entire program finally collapsed of its own weight. Lockheed didn't have Ford's experience in the domain, leading to development problems and delays. To complicate matters considerably, the specification for Aquila suffered from "gold plating". The UAV was specified as if it were a piloted aircraft, and new features were added in an undisciplined fashion. There was also no clear owner for the project. Aquila never really met specifications, and was finally killed off in 1987 after the expenditure of almost a billion USD. It is said that the program still remains a source of embarrassment to those who were involved in it.

Specifications (long-range version)

General characteristics

  • Crew: None
  • Capacity: 115 lb (52 kg) payload
  • Length: 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m)
  • Wingspan: 12 ft 9 in (3.88 m)
  • Gross weight: 331 lb (150 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × piston engine, 24 hp (18 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 130 mph (210 km/h)
  • Endurance: 3 hours
  • Service ceiling: 14,800 ft (4,500 m)


  1. ^ p.43, Yenne & Yenne


  • This article contains material that originally came from the web article Unmanned Aerial Vehicles by Greg Goebel, which exists in the Public Domain.
  • Yenne, William , Yenne, Bill, Attack of the Drones: A History of Unmanned Aerial Combat, Zenith Imprint, 2004 ISBN 0760318255


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