Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

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Teledyne Ryan XAQM-81A Firebolt

Developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the XAQM-81A Firebolt was a high-altitude, high-speed aerial target based on the earlier liquid-fueled AQM-37A. The Firebolt set two world records for unmanned sustained flight, reaching a speed of Mach 4.3 and an altitude of 103,000 feet.

Launched from a carrier aircraft, the Firebolt was powered by a highly-advanced "hybrid" rocket motor featuring a liquid oxidizer and a solid fuel compound. The motor’s thrust could be varied in flight to alter speed and altitude, providing a more flexible and realistic target for USAF interceptor pilots.

The Firebolt performed well during testing, but it did not enter production because less expensive alternatives were available.

1,200 lbs. maximum thrust United Technology hybrid rocket motor (could be throttled down to 120 lbs. thrust)
Maximum speed: Mach 4.3 (Approximately 2,600 mph)
Endurance at Mach 3: 5 minutes
Service ceiling: 100,000 feet
Maximum weight: 1,231 lbs.

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