Radioplane BTT

The Radioplane BTT, known as RP-71 by the company, as WS-426/2 by the United States Navy, and as WS-462/2 by the US Air Force, is a family of target drones produced by the Radioplane Company (later a division of Northrop).[1]

Radioplane Shelduck
Radioplane Shelduck on display at the Bournemouth Aviation Museum
Role Target drone
National origin United States
Manufacturer Radioplane, Northrop
Number built >73,000


In the post-World War II period, Radioplane followed up the success of the OQ-2 target drone with another very successful series of piston-powered target drones, what would become known as the Basic Training Target (BTT) family (the BTT designation wasn't created until the 1980s, but is used here as a convenient way to resolve the tangle of designations). The BTTs remained in service for the rest of the 20th century.


OQ-19 / KD2R

The BTT family began life in the late 1940s, evolving through a series of refinements with the US Army designations of OQ-19A through OQ-19D, and the US Navy name of Quail with designated KD2R. Early models had a metal fuselage and wooden wings, but production standardized on an all-metal aircraft.

Radioplane developed an experimental XQ-10 variant that was mostly made of plastic, but although evaluations went well, it wasn't considered a major improvement over existing technology, and it did not go into production.

Radioplane was bought out by Northrop in 1952 to become the Northrop Ventura Division, though it appears that the "Radioplane" name lingered on for a while.

MQM-33 / MQM-36

In 1963, when the US military adopted a standardized designation system, the surviving US Army BTT variants became MQM-33s and the KD2R-1, the only member of the family still in Navy service, became the MQM-36 Shelduck.

The MQM-36 was the most evolved of the BTT family, but retained the same general configuration as the other members. It was larger and more sophisticated than the first-generation OQ-2A series, and was powered by a more powerful flat-four four-stroke McCulloch piston engine with 72 horsepower. The MQM-36 carried Luneberg lens radar enhancement devices in its wingtips that generated a radar signature of a larger aircraft. The radar reflectors (Luneberg lens) wasn't used by the US Navy as the air search radar interfered with the control signals. Thus the air search radar was not used.

Launch was by RATO booster or bungee catapult, and recovery by parachute.

MQM-57 Falconer

A variant of the BTT designated the RP-71,[2] also known as the SD-1 Observer and later redesignated MQM-57 Falconer,[3] was built for battlefield reconnaissance, with first flight in 1955. The Falconer was similar in appearance to the Shelduck, but had a slightly longer and stockier fuselage. It had an autopilot system with radio-control backup, and could carry cameras, as well as illumination flares for night reconnaissance. Equipment was loaded through a hump in the back between the wings. Although it only had an endurance of a little more than a half-hour, making it of limited use, about 1,500 Falconers were built and the type was used internationally with several different military forces, remaining in service into the 1970s.

Over 73,000 BTT targets were built in all, and the type was used by at least 18 nations. Some may still be lingering in service.

Specifications (MQM-36)

Twuav 01 02

Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1966–67[4]

General characteristics

  • Crew: None
  • Length: 13 ft 7 in (4.14 m)
  • Wingspan: 11 ft 6 in (3.50 m)
  • Height: 2 ft 7 in (0.79 m)
  • Wing area: 18.72 ft2 (1.74 m2)
  • Aspect ratio: 7.0:1
  • Empty weight: 273 lb (124 kg)
  • Gross weight: 403 lb (183 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × McCulloch O-100-2, 72 hp (53 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 202 mph (324 km/h)
  • Stall speed: 67 mph (108 km/h)
  • Range: 207 miles (333 km)
  • Endurance: 1 hours
  • Service ceiling: 23,000 ft (7,000 m)
  • Rate of climb: 3,500 ft/min (17.8 m/s)


  • MQM-33 RCAT on display at U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum, Huntsville, Alabama
  • Northrop KD2R on display at Nationaal Militair Museum, Soesterberg, Netherlands
  • An OQ-19D is on display in the Commemorative Air Force Minnesota Wing hangar and is visible on a virtual tour of the hangar
  • A specimen is displayed at the Kolmården zoo outside of Norrköping, Sweden.
  • XT581, a SD-1, was given in 1978 by the British Army to the Imperial War Museum Duxford, where it was restored in the 1990s and is now on display.



  1. ^ Jacobs, Horace ; Whitney, Eunice Engelke. Missile and Space Projects Guide 1962, Springer, 1962, p. 224.
  2. ^ "Pilotless Photo Drone Takes Aerial Pictures" Popular Mechanics, June 1956, p. 144 bottom article.
  3. ^ Newcome, Laurence R. (2004). Unmanned Aviation: A Brief History of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Reston, VA: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. p. 73. doi:10.2514/4.868894. ISBN 978-1-56347-644-0.
  4. ^ Taylor 1966, p. 377.


  • Newcome, Lawrence R. (2004). Unmanned Aviation: A Brief History of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Reston, VA: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. doi:10.2514/4.868894. ISBN 978-1-56347-644-0.
  • Taylor, John W. R. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1966–67. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Company, 1966.
  • This article contains material that originally came from the web article Unmanned Aerial Vehicles by Greg Goebel, which exists in the Public Domain.
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The Radioplane Company was an American aviation company that produced drone aircraft primarily for use as gunnery targets. During World War II, they produced over 9,400 of their Radioplane OQ-3 model, a propeller-powered monoplane, making it the most-used target aircraft in the US. In the post-World War II era they introduced their Radioplane BTT series, which was produced for years and eventually reached almost 60,000 examples. They also produced several radio control and self-guided missiles, the largest being the GAM-67 Crossbow, which didn't enter service. The company was purchased by Northrop Corporation in 1952, and moved to one of Northrop's factories in 1962. One of the last projects carried out at the original Radioplane factory in Van Nuys, California, was the construction of the Gemini Paraglider.

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USAF drone aircraft designations 1948–1962
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