This qualifies as a UCAV, I believe, by dint of the fact that it was not a 'flying bomb' like the V-1 but was intended to drop its load and return
for re-use. A remarkably prescient concept, it obviously suffered from the lack of any accurate means of actually delivering the bomb in those days
but I still think the fact that such a concept was seriously considered to the point of building a test vehicle was remarkable.
First off, I would not typify this as being a UCAV because it's lack of apparent landing gear, insufficient size to make a long return trip and
inability to both target and attack without an aircraft accompanying it over the target (at a minimum the drone needs to be at least twice as fast to
allow it to build separation). Instead, I would put this in the class of a (staging) Wicmid or JDAM. In that 70% of bomb ballistic errors derive
from 'windage' (cross or tail/head) that cannot really be calculated through multiple altitude bands, even today, remove the thermal layers as a
function of altitude decreases and badabing. The other 30% being related to abnormalities in the (itself basically flawed) aeroshape due to crude
casting and fill technologies of the time. Reduce the TOF and those variables don't have time to skew the basic inertia physics of it's parabolic
If you can take the bomber down to 10-12,000ft with a decent sight, you can indeed get the 'pickle barrel' claims for the Norden. And you will take
attrition to match.
OTOH, if you can take _a drone_ down to 500ft, assuming it will hold heading and altitude, you can almost drive it with a sighting flare. The big
difference being that, unlike a guided bomb such as the GB/VB series or the German Fritz/Hs-293; the trajectory curve remains constant regardless of
closure so that there is no tendency to crash short or curve away from the target due to optical precess and parallax effects as seen by the operator
(as the Germans found out, long before 'jamming' was a factor).
Of course things get even better when you can put a TV onboard because, again, the FOV and brightness/scale levels can remain more or less constant
for grazing angle and closure without blurring or stabilization issues as the seeker tries to track through the target arc or through the airframe
motion one. In this case, you can more or less put marks on the vidicon lens that equate to a fixed fall line and alignment bar and get both range
and azimuth accuracy increases.
Such is what this aircraft-
Was capable of by the mid 40's after an early conversion of a biplane trainer back in 1938 proved the concept of a _stable flight_ approach to
targeting weapons rather than relying on freefall ballistics.
The one I am posting tonight about though is sometyhing I think must surely rank as the worlds first genuine UCAV project, although the acronym did
not exist of course. It is not even a 'current' project in the 1955 issue which illustrates it and it merits barely a couple of lines under the
It is called the Miles Hoopla and dates from 1941-43. was a remotely piloted, via radio control, light aircraft capable of carrying a semi-conformal
1,000lb bomb, which arrangement itself was years ahead of its time. It looked like an overscale model aircraft and was powered by a DH Gypsy Queen
engine, like the Tiger Moth amongst many others.
I can't find anything on it in any of my Janes stuff, most of which is 'old enough to know'. As such, I too am curious as to how far the concept
went. It should be noted that remote control of aircraft was _far_ from unusual by the later 30's anti-aircraft target drones became a functional
necessity. And guided bombs were used in considerable numbers in WWII in both theaters, only the time compression of their ballistic fall dynamics,
compromised by the early electronics of the time, kept the concept of 'smart bombing' from being a historical fact 40 years before Vietnam.
Your major problems are obviously going to be:
1. Enemy TechInt exploitation of the wreckage. You need to dump these things in lakes or include major safing redundancies such that absolutely none
of the RC gear is captured. Obviously, even this is not a guarantee against random damage, failure of flight controls resulting in CFIT or simple
SIGINT monitoring based on educated engineering work.
2. Weather. While this may actually help justify the aircraft in Europes typical clag (no more climbout/let down issues with a 1,000 other airframes
in the area), it will most certainly increase bandwidth vulnerability issues as a TV camera will become a necessity to target objects under a low
ceiling where direct drone tracking is not feasible.