Before my time at Dunsfold I had spent some thirteen years in the RAF, the last two of which had been on an exchange tour with the USAF at Tyndal Air Force Base (AFB) in north west Florida. The unit to which I was attached was a weapons test unit equipped with F-101 Voodoos, F-102 Delta Darts and F-106 Delta Daggers. One trial at Tyndall involved the launching of a very large number of AIM-4 Falcon missiles from the F-106 in order to prove the ‘Guide Rate’. Initially the target was a device towed behind one of the squadron’s F-101s, and to limit the risk to the towing aircraft the towline was very long indeed.
Unfortunately the towline frequently broke and the firing aircraft
pilot would be faced with a strange radar return as the target together
with thousands of feet of cable sailed back towards him. So it was
decided that we would instead use Ryan Firebee drones towing targets on
a shorter line. The missiles made the most of that, frequently ignoring
the towed target and destroying the drone instead. As we were firing
from about half a mile dead astern of the drone it was quite hard to
hit the balance between filming the event and avoiding the debris. We
eventually ran out of Firebees but, having been the party guilty of
shooting down these unarmed USAF aircraft on a number of occasions I
was honoured to receive a very nice certificate of achievement, not
from the USAF who had to foot the bill, but from the manufacturers of
the drones who were very happy!