MQM-61 Cardinal
Role Target drone
National origin United States
Manufacturer Beechcraft

The MQM-61 Cardinal was a target drone designed and built by Beechcraft.


A KDB-1 is launched from USS Boston
An MQM-61 on display at Aviation Unmanned Vehicle Museum
An MQM-61 on display at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park

While the Radioplane BTT was a popular piston-powered target, such a simple target was relatively easy to build and it developed competition. In 1955 Beechcraft designed the Model 1001, as the initial version of this target drone was designated, in response to a US Navy requirement for gunnery and air-to-air combat training. Production of the type began in 1959, with the drone being given the Navy designation of KDB-1, later MQM-39A. The Model 1001 led to the similar Model 1025 for the US Army, which gave it the MQM-61A designation. Beech also designed a variant powered by a turbojet engine and designated Model 1025-TJ, but nobody bought it.[1]

The MQM-61A was a simple monoplane with a vee tail. It was substantially larger than the MQM-36 Shelduck, and powered by a 94 kW (125 hp) McCulloch TC6150-J-2 flat-six, air-cooled, two-stroke piston engine driving a two-blade propeller. It could tow banners or targets of its own, with two targets under each wing, and also carried scoring devices. Launch was by RATO booster, recovery was by parachute.[2]

A total of 2,200 Cardinals of all variants were built, the majority for the US Army, with the rest operated by the US Navy, the US Marine Corps.[3]

Surviving aircraft

Specifications (MQM-61A)

General characteristics



  1. ^ Greg Goebel (August 2011). "BEECH MQM-39A / MQM-61A CARDINAL". Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  2. ^ "MQM-61A Cardinal". 2017. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  3. ^ "A History Of Drones". UAV Systems International. 2018. Archived from the original on 12 July 2018. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  4. ^ "BGM-34B ATTACK & MULTI-MISSION RPV". AUVM. Archived from the original on 27 October 2020. Retrieved 12 October 2020.