The 'Aerial Target' and 'Aerial Torpedo' in the USA

The first attempts to create an airborne counterpart of the naval torpedo took place in the United States during World War I. A pilotless plane was to be guided to a target and crashed into it in a power dive, exploding its charge.

In 1916-17 a prototype called the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane made a number of short test flights proving that the idea was sound. In November 1917 Army representatives witnessed one of these flights and started a similar aerial torpedo, or flying bomb, project led by Lieut. Col. Bion J. Arnold for the Air Service and Charles Kettering for industry.

The latter was assisted by Orville Wright and C.H. Wills of the Ford Motor Company. Various companies working together produced 20 complete pilotless aircraft (called Bugs), and a successful test flight was made Oct. 4, 1918. Since World War I ended five weeks later all projects were discontinued except for some experiments with Bugs. This project was dropped in 1925.

The Navy's Bureau of Ordnance decided to follow up one aspect of the over-all problem of the aerial torpedo and to develop a radio-controlled plane. An N-9 trainer seaplane was used as the basic "vehicle" and rebuilt with stabilization and radio control equipment developed by the Naval Research Laboratory and by Carl Norden.

A successful flight without a pilot aboard took place Sept. 15, 1924; but the plane was damaged in landing and sank. Thus ended the career of the first of the drones, as pilotless planes not used for combat are now called.

During the next decade there was little missile research, but developments in electronics and progress in aviation produced results which were later applied to missiles.

In 1936 the Navy began another drone program which was intended to provide realistic targets for antiaircraft gunnery practice but which directly influenced missile development. Lieutenant Commander (later Rear Adm.) D.S. Fahrney was in charge of the project.

The plane used was a Stearman-Hammond JH-1, and the radio control equipment was again developed by the Naval Research Laboratory. This drone made its first successful flight Nov. 15, 1937. The following summer such a drone was first used for target practice by the antiaircraft batteries of the USS Ranger. Commander Fahrney then suggested the development of assault drones.

In January 1941 work began on the conversion of a TG-2 (torpedo plane) and a BG-1 (dive bomber) into missiles. The converted and pilotless torpedo plane, "flown" by a pilot in a plane ten miles away, successfully attacked a destroyer on March 23, 1942.

The converted dive bomber was crashed into a raft towed by a tug in Chesapeake Bay on April 19, 1942. The controlling pilot who "flew" the drone by television was 11 miles distant at the time. These tests proved that assault drones were practical, and various planes were converted and used in World War II.

Since a plane can carry a larger load in a glider than it can carry directly, the next plan was to build a glider bomb to be towed into the combat area and guided into the target just as the assault drones were guided. Several such developments were started, among them a glide bomb with a radar homing device. Called the Bat, it saw action in the Pacific. Other missiles were the BG-1 and BG-4 glide bombs, the latter television equipped, which were used in Europe.

Four other missiles were developed in the United States: Little Joe, an antiaircraft missile propelled by solid fuel rockets; and three types of Gorgon, with pulse jet engine, turbojet engine, and liquid fuel rocket motor, respectively.

Excerpt from Aviation History written and maintained by 'Phineas T. Sleeper'

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Naval History Timeline 1915-19

During 1916: Radio-controlled pilotless monoplane, the "Aerial Target," designed by H. P. Folland with radio gear by A. M. Low, flown at the British Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough.

October 2, 1918: First successful flights of Army's Kettering pilotless aircraft with preset controls, "The Bug," at Dayton, Ohio; often called a "guided missile" in later years.

October 19, 1918: Pilotless Navy N-9 training plane, converted to automatic flying machine, flew prescribed course although distance gear failed to land the airplane at preset range of 14,500 yards.

Naval History Timeline 1945-49

1946 late April early May
U.S. Weather Bureau in cooperation with Army, Navy, NACA, Air Transport Association, and several universities, began series of flights into thunderstorms with pilotless P-61 "Black Widows" and piloted sailplanes to obtain scientific data.


Naval Aviation 1898-1916

Naval Aviation in World War I

Drone aircraft at the Pima Air & Space Museum

Experimentation with unmanned aircraft, remotely controlled through radio signals, began as early as World War I. Nearly all the propeller driven examples on display at Pima Air & Space Museum were created during World War II for use as targets to afford more realistic aerial gunnery practice. The Teledyne Ryan drones on display represent the entry of drone technology into the age of jet power. A further step in sophisticated technology has resulted in the Cruise missile that can virtually "think" for itself once launched toward its target -- without a need for a remote human controller.

  1. Globe KD6G-2
  2. Gyrodyne QH-50C
  3. Lockheed D-21
  4. McCulloch-Ryan OQ-19
  5. Northrop MQM-57
  6. Radioplane-Frankfurt OQ-3
  7. Teledyne Ryan AQM-34L
  8. Teledyne Ryan YQM-98A

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NASM Space Artifacts: JB-2 Loon
used with permission from the Copyright © 2000 NASMSI National Air and Space Museum Smithsonian Institution


JB-2 'Loon'

The Loon was the U.S. Navy's copy of the German V-1. The U.S. Army Air Forces' copy was designated JB-2. Intended for launching from ships against ground targets, the Loon had a pulse jet engine, a range of 150 miles, and was tracked by radar and controlled by radio. All Loons built were used in tests after the war. None were fired in combat.

The Loon was the Navy version of the JB-2, the copy of the German V-1 developed by the Army Air Forces (AAF) beginning in 1944. As with the V-1, the AAF intended the JB-2 to be a ground-launched missile used against ground targets. The AAF started flight tests in October 1944. The Navy developed interest in the AAF program shortly thereafter, intending to launch the missile from escort carriers with guidance from either shipboard or airborne radar.

Formally, the Navy's project was initiated under the Bureau of Aeronautics in April 1945 and at that time the missile was designated the Loon. (Initially, the Navy also designated the Loon as KGW-1 then in 1946 redesignated it as KUW-1.) The Bureau of Aeronautics received some JB-2s from the AAF, and in June 1945 contracted with Republic Aviation for 151 missiles. The XM-1 system (using a slotted tube powder catapult) was selected for the launching system.


JB-2 'Loon' being loaded onto its launch frame


The Loon was 27 feet long and had a wing span of 18 feet. It carried a 2,100 pound warhead and weighed 5,020 pounds with the warhead and fully fuelled. Powered by a PJ 31-1 pulse jet which developed a gross thrust of 850 to 900 pounds at a specific impulse of about 1,100 pounds per second, the Loon had a 180 gallon tank and could use any gasoline-type fuel.

Control sufaces on the airframe consisted of rudder and elevators only. The Loon was tracked by radar to the target and was controlled by radio. Stabilization was provided by 3 air-driven position and rate gyros. An aneroid unit and magnetic compass controlled altitude and course through the gyro system

In late 1945, tests of the XM-1 system using dummy Loons were conducted at Point Mugu Naval Base in California. Several operational tests of the missile took place at this base in early 1946. Directives were then issued in March 1946 to develop a launching capability from submarines. Submarine launchings started in February 1947 from the U.S.S. CUSK.

Several months later, the U.S.S. CARBONERO joined the tests and acted as the control and tracking station. Based on the successful results of these tests, the Navy directed in August 1947 that submarine launchings continue through 1949 to develop terminal guidance procedures and tactical concepts for the Regulus, a submarine-launched guided missile with a range of 500 miles that was then under development.

In late 1948, directives were issued to develop a launching capability from surface vessels as well. The U.S.S. NORTON was selected as the platform, and four successful launchings from her took place in 1949 and 1950. The Loon project was cancelled after the last of these

With a maximum range of 150 miles, the Loon was launched at a minimum speed of 220 m.p.h. and climbed at a rate of 500 to 1,000 feet per minute to the altitude set on its altimeter. The optimum altitude in flight was between 2,000 and 4,000 feet, and the optimum speed in flight 400 m.p.h.

The Loon was one of the first guided missiles built by the U.S. Navy. Knowledge gained from its testing onboard submarines and surface ships led to the subsequent development of more advanced guided missiles which were deployed with the fleet

This Loon was obtained from the U.S. Navy in 1965


Various Joint Committee on New Weapons and Equipment records in Entry #92, Record Group #218, (Joint Chiefs of Staff), National Archives, College Park, Maryland

RADM D.S. Fahrney, USN (Ret.), The History of Pilotless Aircraft and Guided Missiles (unpublished manuscript, n.d.)

JB-2 "Loon"

The JB-2 is a U.S. made copy of the famous German V-1 surface-to-surface pilotless flying bomb first used against England on June 12-13, 1944. The airframe for the JB-2 was built by the Republic Aviation Corporation and the engine by the Ford Motor Company from drawings prepared at Wright Field, using dimensions taken from the remains of several V-1s brought from Germany.

About 1,000 JB-2s were built for the Army and Navy. Production delivery began in January 1945, but it was cancelled on VJ Day. The first one to be test flown in the U.S. was launched at Eglin Field, Fla., in October 1944. Just before the end of the war, JB-2s were placed aboard an aircraft carrier en route to the Pacific for possible use in the proposed invasion of the Japanese home islands. Although the JB-2 was never used in combat, it provided valuable data for the design and construction of more advanced weapons.


Span: 17 ft. 8 in.

Length: 27 ft. 1 in.

Height: 4 ft. 8 in.

Weight: 5,023 lbs. loaded

Armament: 2,100 lb. high-explosive warhead

Engine: Ford PJ-31-F-1 of 900 lbs. thrust

(copy of German Argus-Schmidt pulse-jet)


Operating speed: 375-400 mph

Launching speed: 220 mph

Range: 150 miles

Operating Altitude: 2,000 to 4,000 ft.

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Reach for the Sky : The Military Architectural Legacy of Holloman AFB, New Mexico, 1941 to 1961
2. JB-2 (March 1947 to October 1948)

The JB-2 also arrived at Alamogordo AAF in March from Wendover. The Missile was a version of the German V-1 buzz bomb, developed not by the regular peenemunde rocket group but by the German Air Force group working in the shadow of the Army V-2 project. The (U. S.) project had been canceled before March 1947, but a series of military launches were scheduled for Holloman AFB (as Alamogordo AFB was renamed in January 1948).


Plate 1. JB-2 on launch ramp, ca. 1947 (ISHF photo)


Because of the necessity of building a 400-foot launching ramp (Plate 1), the first JB-2 was not fired here until May 1948 (using theNATIV blockhouse for command and control). After eleven missions on the local range, the last two occurring in October 1948, the project was scrapped. Brief consideration in November of the possibility of using the JB-2 in support of the MATADOR project failed to revive the project.


72.3.4 Other headquarters records

Textual Records: (which include) Records (1850-1958) collected for a history of pilotless aircraft and missiles, 1958, and related correspondence, 1953-58.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress (BQ-7 Flying Bomb)

Approximately 25 high-time Fortresses (mainly B-17Fs) were converted into radio-controlled flying bombs under the designation BQ-7. They were designed to be used against German V-1 missile sites, submarine pens or deep fortifications that had resisted conventional bombing.

The name of the USAAF officer who first thought of the idea of using war-weary B-17s as flying bombs has been lost to history, but the plan was proposed to Maj. Gen. James Doolittle under the code name Operation Aphrodite, and he approved it on June 26, 1944.

Responsibility for preparing and flying the drone aircraft was given to the 3rd Bombardment Division, which passed the job down to the 388th Bombardment Group, which in turn passed responsibility down to the 562nd Squadron based at Honington in Suffolk.

The B-17s selected for the project were stripped of their normal military equipment and packed with up to 9 tons of explosives. Each pilotless bomber was fitted with a radio-controlled flight system known as Double-Azon and a television camera was placed on the flight deck so that an image of the main instrument panel could be sent back to a controlling aircraft.

A second TV camera was installed inside the Plexiglas nose which gave a television monitor in the controlling aircraft a view of the ground so that the robot machine could be directed onto the target.

It was planned that a volunteer two-man crew would get the ship off the ground and up to an operational altitude of 2000 feet, point the aircraft in the general direction of the target, arm the explosives for an on-impact detonation, hand over control to the director aircraft that was flying above at 20,000 feet, and then parachute to safety while still over England.

The canopy was removed from each aircraft, creating an open cockpit so that the two-man crew could parachute to safety with minimum delay once they had completed their task. The controlling B-17 would then direct the BQ-7 to the target area over the Continent and lock its controls into a crash course into the target before turning to escape.

Upon completion of the training program, the squadron with its 10 drones and four command ships moved to an airfield at Woodbridge, which was a few miles from the Suffolk coast northeast of London. They then moved to a small satellite air field at Fersfield, 25 miles from Woodbridge, in a very isolated area that was well away from any civilian areas.

The first mission took place on August 4. The target was a V-1 site in Pas-de-Calais. In the first phase of the mission, two mother ships and two drones took off. Unfortunately, one of the drones went out of control shortly after the first crewman had bailed out.

It crashed near the coastal village of Orford, destroying two acres of trees and digging an enormous crater. The body of the other crewman was never found. The second drone was successfully dispatched toward the Pas-de-Calais. Unfortunately, clouds obscured the television view from the nose just as the drone approached the target site, and the target was missed by 500 feet.

The second phase of the mission fared little better. One robot BQ-7 had a control malfunction before it could dive onto its target and was shot down by German flak. The other one missed its target by 500 yards.

On August 6, another task force of two robots and four command ships was sent out against V-1 targets in France. The crews parachuted clear without incident, but within minutes one of the drones went out of control and crashed into the sea.

The other drone decided to develop a mind of its own and the explosives-packed aircraft began to circle the industrial area of Ipswich before flying out to sea, where it was harmlessly ditched.

After these early failures, General Doolittle decided that it might be a good idea to suspend further missions until it could be determined what was going wrong. Most of the advisers pointed the finger at the Double-Azon radio-control system and recommended conversion to a new system known as Castor.

The first Castor raid was an attack on targets at Heligoland. Unfortunately, the parachute of the pilot of one of the drones failed to open, and he was killed. The drone made it to Heligoland, but crashed some 100 yards short of the target, probably a victim of flak.

The next mission was against targets on Heide/Hemmingstedt. The first robot crashed short of its target because of director disorientation caused by image distortion in the television monitor, whereas the second robot malfunctioned and had to be ditched at sea.

Further sorties against Heligoland took place in October, but yielded little success. One drone was shot down by flak, whereas another went out of control and ended up over the North Sea where it finally ran out of fuel and crashed into the water.

A third drone failed to locate its target due to low visibility. The exasperated director crew pointed the BQ-7 in the general direction of Berlin and let it go. The fourth drone actually crashed near its target and caused some serious damage and fairly heavy casualties.

On October 27, the headquarters of the US Strategic Air Forces in Europe concluded that these attacks by BQ-7s against hard targets were not yielding much success, and decided that further targets for the BQ-7s would be industrial targets in large German cities.

The next sortie was on December 5, the target being railroad marshaling yards west of Hannover. Bad weather hampered the mission. The first robot could not find the primary target, and was shot down by flak while approaching the secondary target.

The second robot failed to explode when it crashed, leaving the Germans with a relatively undamaged aircraft with a complete set of remote-controls that they could examine.

The last Aphrodite mission was on January 20, 1945, against a power station at Oldenberg. Both drones missed their targets by several miles. After this last effort, the Aphrodite concept was abandoned as being unfeasible.

In retrospect, the Aphrodite concept was a costly failure, and was often more dangerous to the crews which operated the drones than it was to the Germans. The hardware available in 1944 was simply not good enough to do the kind of job that was required.

Incidentally, the BQ-7 was not the plane responsible for the death of Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. The plane that killed JFK's older brother was a converted Consolidated PB4Y-1, a Navy version of the B-24 Liberator.

Joe Baugher jfb@ihgp.ih.lucent.com
Maintained by Carl Pettypiece


War weary Fortresses were also put to use as BQ-7 radio-controlled flying bombs in Project Aphrodite. These aircraft were stripped of armament, filled with 9 tonnes (20,000 pounds) of explosive, and fitted with radio control. They were to take off with a pilot and copilot who directed them toward the target and then bailed out. The BQ-7s were to then be directed to the target by a controller aircraft. The cockpit of the BQ-7 was cut open at top to make bailing out easier.

The BQ-7s were intended to be used on V-weapon sites in northern France. They were a dismal failure, with few of the handful of missions performed ending in success. One is said to have crashed after takeoff and blasted a crater 100 ft (30 meters) in diameter, while another one broke lock and circled around in English skies for an hour.

General Sam Phillips
interviewed by Martin Collins
February 23, 1988, Los Angeles, California
used with permission from the Copyright © 2000 NASMSI National Air and Space Museum Smithsonian Institution


MR. COLLINS: We'd like to begin our discussions with a sense of your very early background, where and when you were born, who your parents were.

GENERAL PHILLIPS: I was born on February 19, 1921, in Springerville, Arizona.


COLLINS: I'm sure there were many things, but in relation to our future discussion, what was important about your experiences as a pilot during the war?

PHILLIPS: If I wanted to give you a flip answer, it would be "surviving," I guess. But it was more than that. There were several things that I think had profound effects on me, the majority of which I think would in one way or another relate to technology. The very early days of radar. See, the only communications equipment we had in our fighters was a four- channel VHF set. It had four preset channels and SCR-522 was its nomenclature. It had four preset VHF channels. These would have been in the hundred-plus megacycle range. And I can remember, as we were crossing the Channel or the North Sea and approaching the coast of Belgium or France or Holland, occupied by Germany, hearing these buzzing sounds on the radio. Now those were some of the early versions of radar, putting out large amounts of energy to get reflected waves back. German radar. I didn't know that at the time but later on it was identified as such.

Our early missions were largely bomber escort, escorting bombers. The antiaircraft fire was really murderous, especially for the bomber. And I mention that because very, very late in the war, proximity fuses came on the scene. Incidentally, I did a paper when I was at the Air Force Command and Staff School at Maxwell, in postwar years, about proximity fuses and what would have happened to the Army Air Corps had they been developed earlier. But my memories of the antiaircraft fire, the German 88-millimeter antiaircraft used against the bomber, was a murderous effect. You know, these bombers just had to fly straight and level in their long, almost endless, string of bombers going in on a target, and the German antiaircraft would put up what I used to call--or I guess it was officially called-- a box of flak, you know. They'd just keep that box full as the bombers flew through it and it was really devastating. And as I said, my own belief, which occurred later of course, that if the proximity fuse had been developed and available to Germany, that antiaircraft fire would have been much more devastating, as bad as it was.

I'm sure you're aware that in many of those raids, the U.S. would mount 1000 bombers, and it was not uncommon for 50 or more to be shot down on one of those missions. Just a few brief points about radar, which is what I was really talking about. I can remember when one airplane in each of our squadrons was equipped with some very secret device, which couldn't be talked about, except as pilots we were told when to turn it on and when to turn it off, and under what conditions we could be instructed by the ground to either turn it on or turn it off. I remember it was called the Rosebud, and that was the code name for it, and it was a transponder device being used for early ground radar identification and tracking.


COLLINS : We were just talking about some of your introductory knowledge gained during the war. Proximity fuses.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Well, I was talking about some of the influences on me that occurred during the war, many of which are related to technology and its application, although I wouldn't necessarily have categorized it that way at the time. The beginnings of guided missiles. There was a program in the Army Air Corps that went under the name, as I remember it, of 'Weary Willie', which was to convert war-weary B-17s to being flown as drones. Those airplanes were equipped with radio control, these being relatively simple radio control transmitters and receivers, hooked through servomechanisms to the autopilots of that era. The B-17 so converted was loaded with, my memory says, 20,000 pounds of very, very high explosive. It was called Torpex, which was a very potent TNT explosive. The airplanes were fused in a variety of ways so that they would explode that big charge under impact, and there were other devices on the airplane to cause the explosion besides just impact fusing. The technique was for a pilot to take the airplane off and set it on course, and to transfer control to the accompanying airplane, which was going to fly it by radio to its target. The pilot would then jump out with a parachute, and the drone would be flown on to its target then by an accompanying director airplane.

COLLINS : Now did this happen towards the end of the war or after the war?

PHILLIPS: This was during World War II. I don't remember exactly when they were introduced, but my introduction to them was, my squadron was assigned to escort more than one of these missions. We were, as P-38s, to escort. One mission I remember in particular. We were at a rendezvous with, as I recall it was a pair of drones, with an accompanying pair of directors each controlling a drone, so there were four B-17s. Their mission was to fly at very low level just off the surface of the North Sea. We rendezvoused with them somewhere on the coast of England, and their target was submarine pens on an island up in--it was called Hellova Land. I might have to look at a map to remind myself exactly where it was, but it was somewhere up in the Denmark, Norway, Sweden area, way up there, I think in the Baltic.

And the terminal guidance system on those drones was something I'd never even heard of at that time, by then, was television. They had a television camera in the nose of the drone transmitting its picture back to the director, and the director, for its terminal dive on the target, would keep the television image of his target right in that screen until he flew it right into the target. I well remember, first of all, the length of that mission. It was more than seven hours up there and back, escorting these. But I also remember when they flew those drones in. Their target was the entrance to this underground submarine pen installation which was in some rocky area, and they flew those drones right into the doors of that pen, and there was just a tremendous explosion as a result. I never did see the post-attack reports, but it had to have accomplished its objective of devastating that submarine base.

COLLINS : That kind of attack and direct placement of explosives on a target would have been difficult with a typical bombing mission, I assume.

PHILLIPS: Virtually impossible. It would have been, I think, impossible to have penetrated into an underground submarine installation in any other way that I knew of at that time. Well, that was my first direct exposure to guided missiles. Now I think probably history would say that these B-17 drones had their origins as a counter to the V-1. By then the V-1, the German buzz bomb, was being used, and my exposure to B-1s or buzz bombs was I guess in two or three different ways. One is that one of the tracks that those buzz bombs flew was over our base. They had to have been launched from somewhere in Belgium or Holland to come over because we were north of London, and in the main these buzz bombs were headed for London. On more than one occasion at night we'd have an air raid siren, which was very unusual up until buzz bombs, for our base to have an air raid alarm. We'd go outside and be near the bomb shelters that were underground. You'd listen to these things, and if the engine ever quit, why, you wanted to get downstairs in that bomb shelter, because the way they worked was, when the engine quit it dived and exploded. So that was one exposure to those.

Another exposure was on infrequent leave passes for a visit to London, with London being the target. I was never close to where one hit but there were a lot of them that hit in London. The way the missions were divided between the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Corps in those days, the Royal Air Force had the air defense mission so their job was to do whatever airplanes could do to defend against V-1s. And I remember the RAF used their Hurricane fighter. Their defense against those was to fly up, fly formation with it, get alongside it and tip it, get a wing under it and tip it, which would spill its autopilot, and it would spin in and crash in the ocean. The option of shooting at it was dangerous because if it exploded it would be dangerous to the fighter. Of course they were also intercepted as they came across the coastline by the British antiaircraft guns.

Now the launching ramps that were being built in large numbers along the North Sea and Channel areas were very long launching rails. It was apparent what they were once you got a good picture of them, and for reasons that are probably obvious, whenever there was a bombing mission set up against one of those launching areas, it was called a No-Ball Target. I guess the reason is fairly obvious, with this very long launching rail as the target. Well, at that period of the war those launching ramps were fairly commonly set as targets for sizeable bombing raids, to try to suppress them. And I think, although I wasn't involved, but something I've picked up since, I believe that the origin of the B-17 drones was to attack those V-1 launch ramps. And then they were used for other purposes, like for example the submarine pen attack that I've described.

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Henry Harley ("Hap") Arnold (1886-1950)

Origins of Airpower : Hap Arnold's Early Career in Aviation Technology, 1903-1935
Daso, Maj Dik, USAF

Henry Harley ("Hap") Arnold (1886-1950) was not supposed to enter the Army.[1] His older brother, Thomas, was to attend West Point and continue the Arnold family tradition of American military service that began during the War for Independence. Henry Harley, Hap's namesake and great-great-grandfather, had been a private in the Pennsylvania militia.

Another relative, Peter Arnold, fought with General George Washington's army. Thomas G. Arnold, his grandfather, had been a nail maker who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. Herbert, Henry's father, had been a physician during the Spanish-American War, serving in Puerto Rico in 1898.

Despite the military legacy, and after attending Penn State during the year prior to the West Point admission tests, Thomas rejected his parents' persistent urging to attend West Point. So Henry Arnold, then called Harley, inherited the opportunity to carry on the family's military heritage, which he did with great distinction.[2]


Arnold continued searching for improvements in planes and weapons. He teamed up with a task force of civilian scientists and produced the first "guided missile," dubbed the "Flying Bug," which was a beautiful wood-crafted, minibiplane. Early versions were simply made of papier-mache. It housed a two-stroke, Ford engine and carried a "warhead" of 200-300 pounds of explosives.

The Bug had no wheels and was launched from a wagon-like contraption that ran on a long section of portable track. The "missile" engine was started at one side of the track. When the engine was fully revved, the mechanical counter was engaged and the Bug was released. When it reached flying speed, it lifted off and flew straight ahead, climbing to a preset altitude controlled by a supersensitive aneroid barometer.

When the Bug reached its altitude, the barometer sent signals to small flight controls, which were moved by a system of cranks and a bellows (from a player piano) for altitude control. A gyro helped maintain the stability of the craft, the barometer helped maintain altitude, but only the design of the wings assured directional stability.

The Bug flew straight ahead until the mechanical counter had sensed the calculated number of engine rotations required to carry the weapon the intended target distance. A cam fell into place and the wings folded, looking much like a diving falcon swooping down on its prey. The Bug was rarely as deadly, and certainly not as fast, as a falcon.[25]

On the Bug team were Elmer Sperry, who had spearheaded the Navy's "aerial torpedo" project a few months earlier, Orville Wright, Robert Millikan, and the primary engineer, Charles Kettering. Most test flights were accomplished at Eglin Field, Florida, on the wide-open sand dunes that existed in that day. A first test, however, was attempted at Wright Field, Ohio, one that nearly ended in disaster as the errant missile narrowly missed crashing into the reviewing stands. After witnessing the initial test of the Bug, Arnold recalled that the gadget flew "like a thing possessed of the devil."[26]

Lateral controls added shortly after these tests rectified the control problem that was the result of over-dependence on the dihedral of the wings for lateral stability. More important than the gadget itself were the members of the team, particularly Millikan, who would play a vital scientific role in the 1930s and during the Second World War.

Arnold never forgot his experiences in production, administration, scientific experimentation, or testing. Nor did he forget the men who had helped create the fledgling force. Arnold did, finally, make it over to Europe. He was convinced that General Pershing would want to bring the Bug into combat as soon as possible and was sent to convince him. Officially his orders were to sail by mid-October and become familiar with training organization methods in France and combat operations at the front.[27]

His trip was not a success, however. He immediately fell victim to Spanish Flu, which was rampant on the East Coast. After recovery, he made it to the western front during November, shortly before the armistice went into effect. Because the weather was so terrible, however, he flew no combat missions. The Bug project died shortly thereafter.[28]


1. The origin of the name "Hap" is still a matter of dispute. Arnold's original West Point tag was "Pewt." Arnold's West Point diary, located at the USAF Academy Library, carries that name proudly across the front cover. The Howitzer, West Point's yearbook, also noted the nickname "Benny." One of these two tags is a reference to a cartoon character of the day. In his youth, Arnold was called "Harley," his middle name, by family members.

One account claimed that his "perpetual smile" while flying as a stunt double on an early motion picture led a Hollywood producer, who probably could not remember his name, to call him "Happy." This was then shortened. Another suggested that Hap, when angry, would involuntarily tighten his lips in an insidious smile. This famous "smile" deceptively portrayed Arnold as "happy" when he was, in reality, quite the opposite.

It is most likely that Hap is short for "Happy," the name which Bee, his wife, used for him in many of their personal letters. Hap's mother called him "Sunny," (not s-o-n-n-y) most of her life which indicated a cheerful appearance or sunny disposition. The name Hap did not catch on in his military/personal correspondence until about 1930. Until then, many classmates still addressed correspondence to Pewt, his West Point nickname.

2. Address by Brig. Gen. H. H. Arnold, Gladwyne, Pa., 30 May 1938. Papers of Ira C. Eaker, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., box 38, Arnold speeches, 2; Mrs Barbara Arnold, interview with author, 6 April 1995, Washington, D.C. Mrs Arnold is the daughter of Donald Douglas and widow of the late William Bruce Arnold, General Arnold's son.


25. USAF Museum, "Kettering Bug" folder. Many photos are included as well as many of the original documents describing the weapon and its construction. Interestingly, Elmer Sperry claimed that he had invented the Bug and quit the project in 1919, thoroughly disgusted with Kettering.

26. Global Mission, 74-76; Thomas P. Hughes, American Genesis: A Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm (New York: Penguin Books, 1989), 130-34; and Glenn Infield, "Hap Arnold's WW I Buzz Bomb," Air Force Magazine (May 1974).

27. General Huston to author, 22 February 1996.

28. Arnold Papers, World War I Diary.

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kettering_1.jpg Kettering, Charles Franklin (1876 - 1958)

Kettering Aerial Torpedo

Designed by Dayton, Ohio, native and engineering genius Charles Kettering (who sat on the board of directors of the Dayton-Wright Co.), the Kettering Aerial Torpedo was the world's first guided missile and a precursor to today's cruise missiles. Nicknamed "Bug," the aerial torpedo was launched from a dolly running down a track pointed precisely in the direction of the target.


Kettering Aerial Torpedo 'Bug' being made ready for flight

Source TBA

With a fuselage made of wood laminate and papier-mâché, the Bug was guided to the target by a system of internal preset vacuum-pneumatic and electrical controls. After a preset length of time, an electrical circuit would close and shut down the engine. The wings would then be released, and the fuselage and warhead would fall on the target.


Kettering Aerial Torpedo 'Bug' ready for launch

Inset : engine detail

Source TBA

Initial tests were successful, but World War I ended before the Bug could be used in combat. After the war, the Air Service conducted additional tests, but the lack of funds in the 1920s halted development. A reproduction of the Bug now hangs in the US Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

Kettering Aerial Torpedo Bug

The Kettering Aerial Torpedo, nicknamed the "Bug", was invented by Charles F. Kettering of Dayton. It was developed and built by Dayton-Wright Airplane Company in 1918 for the U.S. Army Signal Corps.


Kettering Aerial Torpedo 'Bug'

The unmanned Bug took off from a dolly which ran along a track. It was stabilized on course toward its target by a system of internal pre-set vacuum pneumatic and electrical controls. After a predetermined length of time, a control closed an electrical circuit which shut off the engine. The wings were then released, causing the Bug to plunge to earth where its 180 pounds of explosive detonated on impact.

Although initial testing was successful, World War I ended before the Bug could enter combat. Fewer than 50 Bugs had been completed at the time of the Armistice. After the war, the Air Service conducted additional tests on the weapon, but scarcity of funds in the 1920s halted further development. The full-size reproduction of the Bug was built by Museum personnel. It was placed on display in 1964.


Span: 14 ft. 11 1/2 in.
Length: 12 ft. 6 in.
Height: 4 ft. 8 in.
Weight: 530 lbs. loaded
Armament: 180 lbs. of high explosive
Engine: One De Palma four-cylinder of 40 hp.


Design speed: 120 mph.
Range: 75 miles

Kettering, Charles Franklin (1876 - 1958)

"...At the same time, the aircraft production board asks him (Kettering - Ed.) to head the development of a pilotless "flying bomb" to carry explosives to a target 50 miles away. Kettering selects Dayton Wright as the prime contractor with Orville Wright as the aeronautical consultant. The flying bomb quickly acquires the name "Kettering Bug", and he devotes considerable time to the ingenious control system.

By October, 1918, the first "Kettering Bug" is ready for launching. While it takes off as planned, it climbs too steeply, stalls, and crashes back to the ground. In a test several days later, a "Bug" is successfully launched and eventually comes down near Xenia. But the war ends before plans can be implemented. As a result, while the "Kettering Bug" is patented, it remains a military secret until World War II, when the concept is used with devastating effect by the Nazis."

Kettering, Charles Franklin (1876 - 1958)

Charles F. Kettering: Doing the right thing at the right time

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Hammond, John Hays Jr. (1888 - 1965)

Hammond, John Hays, Jr., b. April 13, 1888, San Francisco d. Feb. 12, 1965, New York City U.S. inventor whose development of radio remote control served as the basis for modern missile guidance systems.

Son of the noted U.S. mining engineer John Hays Hammond, he established the Hammond Radio Research Laboratory in 1911. By the beginning of World War I, he had not only developed radio remote control but also incorporated it with a gyroscope to send an experimental yacht on a 120-mile (190-kilometre) round trip between Gloucester, Mass., and Boston. Hammond then developed techniques for preventing enemy jamming of remote control and invented a radio-controlled torpedo for coastal defense.

Hammond conducted some of the earliest experiments in frequency modulation (FM) broadcasting and invented single-dial radio tuning. In addition he devised an amplifier that was used on long-distance telephone lines.

During World War II he developed a variable-pitch ship propeller that increased engine efficiency. His later developments include a method of intelligence transmission called "Telespot." He was president of the Hammond Research Corporation, a consulting firm, and often served as research consultant to large corporations.


Radio-operated remote control systems

North Shore is fertile ground for inventors

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Sperry, Lawrence Burst (1892 - 1923)

Curtiss / Sperry Aerial Torpedo (replica)

Garden City, 1918 : The Sperry Aerial Torpedo tests were the first guided missile program in this country. In 1916, Lawrence Sperry, developer of the autopilot, formed a new company and set up flying operations at an isolated site at Amityville on the Great South Bay.

Here, the Navy funded the development of unmanned flying bombs intended to be launched against military targets. Five "Aerial Torpedoes" were then built by the nearby Curtiss Company. A special track and dolly was developed and Aerial Torpedoes were launched by this system with some success.

The Aerial Torpedoes were to be loaded with TNT and launched against enemy targets. After a pre-set time the engine would stop and the plane would dive into the target. With the end of World War One however, all experiments with flying bombs came to a halt.


The original Sperry Aerial Torpedo, 1918

Nonetheless the first successful Aerial Torpedo flight in March 1918, marked the first time a full-size automatically-controlled unmanned aircraft had actually flown. This aircraft was thus a direct ancestor of the modern cruise missile.

Specifications: Wingspan: 22' Length: 15' Engine: 90hp Curtiss OX-5 Top Speed: 70 mph Weight: 950 lbs.

Download a detailed article on the Sperry Sperry Aerial Torpedo of 1918

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Sperry, Lawrence Burst (1892 - 1923)

Sperry, Lawrence Burst (1892 - 1923)

Sperry, Lawrence Burst (1892 - 1923)

The Radioplane

In the mid-1930s, radio-controlled model airplanes became the basis for the Army Air Corps' development of the aerial targets for antiaircraft gunnery training. Starting in 1935, the Radioplane Company in California developed several variations of an original design by former movie star and aeromodeller, Reginald Denny. The OQ-2A was successful enough to generate contracts for almost 1,000 targets in 1943....more

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Last updated June 22, 2003