Primary Function: Target Drone
Power Plant: 1 × Aerojet 530NS35
Thrust: 36 lbf (160 N)) thrust
Service Ceiling: 60,000 feet
Wing Span: 60 inches
Diameter: 12 inches
Propellant: Solid Fuel
Boost Time: 9 minutes
In Service: 1959 - 1970's
Speed: Mach .94
Manufactured By: Radioplane Division of Northrop Corp.
Status: Static Display
Owner: Estrella Warbirds museum


The last picture in the series above is Museum restoration volunteer, Charlie Harber. Charlie has been instrumental in restoring the Northrup AQM 38 after it had been "dropped off" at the museum. We are so proud to have many individuals like Charlie at Estrella Warbirds Museum who dedicate their time and talents, all helping to preserve a bit of past history for future generations.

The AQM-38 was an American target drone, developed by the Radioplane Division of the Northrop Corporation during the 1950s. Extensively used for surface-to-air missile training, over two thousand of the drones were built during its production run, with the missile continuing in use with the United States Army and United States Navy for almost twenty years.

Following flight trials of the XKD4R target drone, developed for the United States Navy, Radioplane redesigned the aircraft into an improved version, designated RP-76, first flying in 1959. Compared to the XKD4R, the RP-76 had redesigned wing fairings, with the vertical control fin being moved to the underside of the missile, as opposed to being on top.

The RP-76 was designed to fly a pre-programmed trajectory on autopilot, with radio command guidance being optional. As with the XKD4R, control was provided by three fins located forwards on the body of the craft. A Luneberg lens was included to augment the drone´s radar signature, and recovery at the end of the flight was by parachute.

Flying for the first time in 1959, the RP-76 was most often launched from a F-89 Scorpion fighter of the United States Air Force, and was extensively used by the U.S. Army for training the operators of surface-to-air missiles. The drone was also used for training USAF fighter pilots in air-to-air gunnery. A slightly modified version, designated RP-78, was supplied to the U.S. Navy which utilized a more powerful rocket, producing 99,000 lbf (440 kN) of thrust, to propel the drone to a top speed of Mach 1.25.

In 1963 the RP-76 and RP-78 received the designations AQM-38A and AQM-38 in the new "tri-service" missile designation system. In all, over 2,000 examples of the drone were built by Northrop, with the missile remaining in service with the U.S. Military until the mid-1970s, when they were retired.

AQM-38 In Flight

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