The Teledyne Ryan Model 124 Firebee (United States Air Force designation BQM-34A) is one of the best known target drones in the world with it’s origins dating back to 1947 when the Ryan Aeronautical Company received the first contract to develop and produce the first jet-powered airborne target system.  The first production model of this version flew in 1960 and has been operated by the US Air Force, Army and Navy as well as the Royal Canadian Air Force. 

The Ryan Firebee saw extensive service in very high threat environments over North Vietnam during the Vietnam War (1964-1975) and more that 554 of these drones were shot down by North Vietnamese surface-to-air- missiles.

The Firebee is a turbojet powered remotely-controlled drone used mainly for target purposes but could also be utilised for evaluating enemy air-to-air and ground-to-air defence systems.  The Firebee could be either air or ground launched and recovery at sea or on land was facilitated by means of a parachute deployed automatically or by remote control.

The Teledyne Ryan Model 124 Firebee seen on display was accepted into the USAF in December 1985 and was recovered floating in the Caribbean Sea in 1986 by a South African SAFMARINE cargo vessel sailing en route from Central America to Cape Town.  Once landed in Cape Town, the Ryan Firebee was taken away immediately for testing and underwent a thorough technical evaluation by both the SAAF as well as industry.  Particular attention was paid to its remote electronic guidance systems.


  • COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: United States of America
  • POWER PLANT: Continental J-69-T-29 turbojet having 771kg of thrust
  • MAX LEVEL SPEED: 1 112 km/h at 1980 m
  • OPERATING AUW: 816 kg
  • MAX CRUISING SPEED: 1015 km/h at 15 240 m
  • RATE OF CLIMB: 4875 m/min at S/L
  • OPERATING ALTITUDE: 15 m – 18 300 m
  • ENDURANCE: 75 min at 15 240 m
  • FLOTATION TIME: 24 hours with 25% fuel