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.
Engine: 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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