Northrop AQM-35

The AQM-35 was a supersonic target drone produced by the Northrop Corporation.

Q-4 / AQM-35
Role Target drone
National origin United States
Manufacturer Northrop Corporation
First flight January 1956
Retired mid 1960s
Primary user United States Air Force
Number built 25


The AQM-35 program began life in 1953 as the Model RP-61 supersonic target drone. In June 1954 the United States Air Force awarded Northrop a contract for development of the project as the Q-4; the first flight-capable XQ-4 was launched in 1956.

The XQ-4 was capable of either ground or air launch, though the former mode was never tested. It was powered by a Westinghouse XJ81-WE-3 turbojet, allowing it to reach speeds of Mach 1.55. The drone's course was followed with radar, and flight commands were sent by a radio telemetry system. When the mission was completed the XQ-4 would deploy a three-stage parachute system along with four large inflatable airbags to cushion the impact with the ground.

The Air Force planned to use the Q-4 as a target for various surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles. A secondary reconnaissance function was planned, with TV or cameras carried. The drone was air-launched by a Lockheed DC-130 Hercules drone controller aircraft, or other carrier aircraft.

In 1963, the Q-4 family of drones were given the designation AQM-35A and AQM-35B. They were never considered entirely successful, with a variety of problems arising during both the development and flight testing phases. It was also considered that the flight performance of the drone was so high that it was not a realistic test for the missiles being developed––ironic since the whole point of the project was to develop a supersonic target. Only 25 of all types were ever built. The last examples of the type were retired during the 1960s.


Prototype of the RP-61 supersonic target drone.
Production target drones.
Developed to use a Fairchild J83 engine and a modified radar signature for testing the CIM-10 Bomarc missile. When the engine could not be developed in time the variant was cancelled.
Fitted with a much more powerful J85-GE-5 engine and a strengthened airframe. This variant was first flown in 1961.
Post 1962 designation of the Q-4 drone.
Post 1962 designation of the Q-4B

Specifications (Q-4/AQM-35A)

General characteristics

  • Length: 33 ft 0 in (10.06 m)
Q-4B/AQM-35B: 35.333 ft (10.77 m)
  • Wingspan: 11 ft 1 in (3.38 m)
Q-4B/AQM-35B: 12.666 ft (3.86 m)
  • Diameter: 1 ft 8 in (0.51 m)
  • Height: 5 ft 7 in (1.69 m)
Q-4B/AQM-35B: 6.167 ft (1.88 m)
  • Empty weight: 1,980 lb (898 kg)
Q-4B/AQM-35B: 3,400 lb (1,542 kg)
Q-4B/AQM-35B: 1x General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet, 3,850 lbf (17 kN) thrust


  • Service ceiling: 60,000 ft (18,000 m)
Q-4B/AQM-35B: 70,000 ft (21,336 m)
  • Maximum speed: M1.55
Q-4B/AQM-35B: M2.0

See also


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