.......The one I am posting tonight about though is something 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 photo shown.
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.
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 deliveringh 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.
I don't have any more information so if anyone has anything about it please post, or even similar UCAV concepts from before the term was invented
Miles 'Hoopla', 1943
The Tier III Minus UAV, known by the nickname DarkStar, was one of two high altitude endurance UAVs being developed for the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO) by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) joint UAV program office.
The Department of Defense canceled the Dark Star UAV program in February 1999 due to budget cuts. Given a trade-off between stealth and range, the Air Force chose the range of Global Hawk over Darkstar's stealth.
In 1965, Lockheed Martin flew the D-21. Designed to be stealthy and fast, it was capable of Mach 4 flight. It was originally supposed to be launched from the back of an A-12, redesignated the M-21 (the M-21 was a two seat version of the A-12). During one of the launches from the M-21 the D-21 crashed back into the carrier aircraft, causing it to break apart in flight. The crew was able to get out, but the launch control officer (Ray Torick) drowned after apparently opening his helmet too soon, after landing in the ocean.
After that all D-21 launches were to be performed by a B-52 carrier aircraft, and a rocket booster was added to accelerate the aircraft. After a troubled test phase, the D-21 went operational. Four missions were attempted over China, with all four being failures. The first aircraft failed to turn, and continued over the Soviet Union, where it eventually crashed. The second turned, but had a partial failure of the hatch (it was supposed to jettison the hatch, allowing the camera and film to be recovered). The third jettisoned the hatch, but the airborne recovery failed, and the destroyer that was going to recover it from the water hit it, causing it to sink. The final flight crashed inside China.
In 1941, the US began development of the BQ series of aircraft. There were several aircraft used, including the TDR-1 (XBQ-4), the AT-21 jet developed by Fairchild, and the two most successful (using the term loosely), the unmanned B-17 and B-24 (BQ-7 and BQ-8 respectively).
Under the Aphrodite program, 25 B-17s were converted to BQ-7 aircraft. They were filled with 18,000 pounds of Torpex explosives, and were taken off under the command of a pilot and copilot, who would bail out when the aircraft was airborne, turning control over to the command aircraft. The aircraft were to attack hardened German targets, but yielded poor results, with one crashing on British soil, and one losing radio communications with the control aircraft.
The B-24, would also be taken off by two pilots, before being turned over to the control aircraft, but was filled with 25,000 pounds of Torpex. It was on one of these missions that Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy, brother to John F. Kennedy, and Lieutenant Willford J. Willey were killed, when their B-24 exploded in midair after arming the Torpex explosives. The Aphrodite program was cancelled shortly after, due to poor results.