HomeVisitMuseum ExhibitsFact SheetsDisplay

Teledyne-Ryan AQM-91A Compass Arrow

DAYTON, Ohio -- Teledyne Ryan AQM-91A Compass Arrow at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Teledyne Ryan AQM-91A Compass Arrow at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Teledyne Ryan AQM-91A Compass Arrow at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Teledyne Ryan AQM-91A Compass Arrow at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Teledyne Ryan AQM-91A Compass Arrow in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Teledyne Ryan AQM-91A Compass Arrow in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This high-flying, unmanned photo reconnaissance aircraft is an early example of stealth technology. Developed in the late 1960s to fly into deep China, Compass Arrow was to cruise at nearly 15 miles altitude while taking photos showing ground details as small as one foot in size. After air-launching from a DC-130E Hercules aircraft, Compass Arrow navigated automatically, but it also could be flown manually by an operator in the launch aircraft.

To present a small radar image and avoid surface-to-air missiles, Compass Arrow's vertical surfaces are canted inward, and its body uses radar-absorbing materials. The engine is mounted on top to reduce its heat signature from below, and the aircraft also carries anti-radar electronics.

Compass Arrow was ready to deploy by late 1971, but friendlier U.S. relations with China made it unnecessary. The AQM-91A never became operational. However, lessons learned from its development contributed to later stealth fighters, bombers and unmanned aerial vehicles.

TECHNICAL NOTES: 
Operational altitude:
78,000 ft.
Endurance: 4.5 hours 
Range: 2,000 miles
Photography: Coverage of an area 1,720 miles long and 43 miles wide
Span: 48 ft.
Length: 34 ft.
Weight: 5,245 lbs.

Click here to return to the Cold War Gallery.


Mask Policy:
In accordance with the updated guidance released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Defense (DoD) and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force will require all visitors to wear face masks indoors effective July 30, 2021 until further notice.

Visitors ages three and up will be required to wear masks while indoors at the museum. This policy applies to all visitors, staff and volunteers regardless of vaccination status. Visitors may wear their own masks or a free paper mask will be provided. Cloth masks will also be available for purchase in the Museum Store.
Additional information available here.

Featured Links

Plan Your Visit button
E-newsletter Sign-up button
Explore Museum Exhibits button
Browse Photos button
Visit Press Room button
Become a Volunteer button
Air Force Museum Foundation button
Donate an item button