Murphy's Law: Amphibious American UAVs Invade The Philippines

February 1, 2013: On January 6th Filipino fishermen found what appeared to an American UAV floating off the eastern Philippines. The red painted UAV was towed back to a beach and the police were called. The cops summoned the navy and a naval officer recognized the UAV as a BQM-74E Chukar III target drone. There was an ID plate on the UAV which said that, as well as showing when the UAV entered service (2008). The U.S. Navy (and several others) use these drones to simulate enemy cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles. The 3.94 meter (12.9 foot) UAV weighs 249 kg (548 pounds), is launched using a rocket, has an endurance of 68 minutes, top speed of 900 kilometers an hour, and max range of about 500 kilometers. BQM-74Es are designed to use a parachute to land in the water and float until lifted out, refurbished, and reused. The BQM-74E uses an autopilot which is programmed to fly a specific series of maneuvers at whatever speed, direction, and altitude (up to 12,000 meters/39,000 feet) the user desires. Over 3,000 BQM-74s have been built since the late 1960s and the current ones cost about $375,000 each.

The BQM-74E found near the Philippines was lost 2,500 kilometers away, off Guam, the previous December. Back then the UAV had been launched from a destroyer to be used for target practice but something went wrong with its guidance system and the navy could not find it. The UAV was believed lost but actually landed intact and then drifted over 2,000 kilometers until it reached the Philippines.

In the Philippines leftist politicians and media accused the U.S. of using the UAV to spy on leftist rebels who are negotiating a peace deal with the government. The BQM-74 has never been used for taking photos, but a good journalist does not let something like that get in the way of a good story.

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