Military Review

Operation Aphrodite: B-17 bomber based projectile aircraft

The vast majority of aircraft Boeing F-17 Flying Fortress was built in the configuration of long-range bombers. These vehicles were used in the most active way for bombing enemy targets in all theaters of operations. In addition, a number of “Flying Fortresses” were built or re-equipped according to original projects of one purpose or another. Thus, in the framework of the Aphrodite project on the basis of serial bombers, it was proposed to manufacture specialized aircraft of the BQ-7 and CQ-17 models, designed to attack enemy protected objects.

A proposal to create two new modifications of the existing bomber appeared at the end of 1943. American General Henry H. Arndold came up with a proposal to develop a new project that would allow the use of worn-out aviation technique. It was proposed to equip the aircraft with minimal residual life with radio control systems and a powerful explosive charge. Such a machine could be used as a particularly powerful guided weapon suitable for destroying enemy defended objects. The implementation of the original proposal was entrusted to specialists at Eglin Air Force Base (Florida).

Serial bomber B-17F, subsequently converted by the project BQ-7. 4 August 1944, the plane lost control and crashed before reaching the target. USAF photo

For several months, air specialists fleet The United States explored the possibilities and offered various options for implementing original ideas. By mid-1944, it was possible to formulate the general provisions of a promising project and determine the list of necessary improvements to the existing aircraft. At the end of June, an order of command appeared, according to which the 3rd Bomber Division was to begin the conversion of existing aircraft into a controlled weapon and remote control machines.

Technical features

At this stage, the project as a whole received the codename Operation Aphrodite (Operation Aphrodite). Projectile based on the design of a serial bomber, called the BQ-7. The second specialized machine carrying the remote control system was designated as CQ-17. Subsequently, there was an updated version of the project, named Castor.

The project "Aphrodite" meant the alteration of the existing B-17 bombers of various modifications with the removal of some of the existing devices and the installation of new equipment. Such retrofitting allowed the aircraft to be as light as possible, which made it possible to accommodate all the required equipment. In the case of a shell plane, the increased payload was used to install a powerful warhead, and the control plane had to carry relatively large and heavy electronic equipment.

Operation Aphrodite: B-17 bomber based projectile aircraft
Aircraft BQ-7 at the airport. Photo

The BQ-7 remote-controlled projectile should have been a noticeably reworked B-17 of any available modification. In fact, the only requirement for a tunable aircraft was the minimum balance of the resource. After its development, the bomber had to be sent for recycling, but using a machine for the Aphrodite project allowed saving on dismantling, as well as performing an additional combat task with minimal cost. By 1944, the United States Army had some aviation equipment with serious damage or a small remaining resource. For this reason, the new project should not have been faced with a lack of “resources.”

The BQ-7 project proposed the dismantling of all equipment, equipment and armament, which was not required by the guided projectile aircraft. All the weapons, including all or part of the turrets, reservation sheets, equipment for transporting bombs, staff radio stations, crew seats, etc., were removed from the vehicle. Also, in the first version of the project, the removal of a large section of the roof of the fuselage was envisaged, due to which the cabin was open at the top. Such a refinement was necessary for the correct implementation of the takeoff according to the original method.

On the vacated places it was necessary to mount a variety of new equipment, directly related to the implementation of the tasks. In the central part of the fuselage was placed a fairly simple warhead. In the existing volumes just fit a large number of wooden boxes with explosives. Some boxes were equipped with fuses. Removing unnecessary units allowed to bring the combat load to 30 thousand pounds (13,6 t). Torpex was used as an explosive, which differed from the "traditional" TNT by its greater power.

When reworking the plane received an open cockpit. Photo USAF /

It was proposed to control the movements of the aircraft BQ-7 using a smoke generator. This device had a drop-shaped fairing and was mounted on the bottom of the fuselage. In the cockpit, instead of pilots, several instruments and actuators were to be installed, connected to the radio control equipment. On commands from the operator’s console, this equipment was supposed to interact with the steering wheel and engine control knobs. To simplify the process of restructuring the aircraft, an unusual control system was proposed, which included various electric drives, levers, thrusts, etc. The receiving antenna of the radio control equipment was located on the tail fairing of the aircraft.

Production of the CQ-17 control plane was much simpler. Like the projectile, he had to lose a piece of equipment for carrying and using bombs. The released volumes and load capacity were used to equip the machine with radio control devices. There were a control panel, a command transmitter and other electronic equipment. Equipment similar to that used on AZON guided bomb carriers was used. It was suggested to follow the remote-controlled aircraft using appropriate optical instruments.

The B-17 Flying Fortress bombers of all existing modifications could be used as the basis for the Aphrodite project equipment. Depending on the type of machine available, the projectiles and camera vehicles were supposed to differ in technical and flight characteristics. Despite this, the fighting qualities of the equipment were similar. In particular, all BQ-7 carried a combat unit of the same volume and mass.

Cab view from behind. Photo

The original appearance of the promising technology led to the formation of an unusual method of its application. Radio control systems had a limited radius of action, due to which the take-off of the aircraft-projectile had to be carried out with the participation of pilots. The crew of two pilots had to lift the BQ-7 into the air, take the required course and occupy a predetermined height. After that, the control was taken over by the operator, who was on the CQ-17 plane that had taken off in advance. After the transfer of control, the crew of the projectile could leave it with parachutes. Further, until the very moment of hitting the target, the aircraft with the warhead was conducted by the operator.

The first version of the project Aphrodite offered the management of the aircraft-projectile exclusively visual way. The operator did not have the ability to monitor the parameters of the equipment. Arriving at the target area, the operator had to give a command to turn on the smoke generator, which allowed tracking the position of the projectile aircraft. Further, the latter was induced on the target by the method of three points. The possibility of correcting the flight path remained until the very moment of hitting the target. In case of unforeseen situations, the projectile was equipped with a radio-controlled self-destruct.

The initial version of the promising project did not allow the operator to monitor the work of the onboard systems of the projectile, which could seriously complicate the operation of equipment. Because of this, an updated version of the project soon appeared, which was distinguished by the presence of additional controls. On board the BQ-7, it was proposed to install two television cameras and a separate radio station to transmit their signal. On board the CQ-17, respectively, a receiver and a monitor for displaying the picture appeared. Both cameras of the projectile were installed in the cockpit. One of them was directed to the dashboard, the other - forward. Switching the camera, the operator could follow the front hemisphere or instruments.

Together with the roof, the cabin lost part of the equipment. Photo of

A little later, it was decided to abandon the open cockpit. The fuselage roof was no longer dismantled, but an additional hatch appeared in the cabin, covered by deflectors. With it, the pilots, raising the BQ-7 into the air, had to leave the car after takeoff.

Later, another modernization of the onboard equipment of the CQ-17 aircraft was undertaken. A radar station was added to the existing radio equipment and monitors to output the signal of the cameras. With the help of the latter, it was proposed to control the movements of the projectile when it was impossible to use optical instruments. This, in particular, made it possible to use a promising aviation complex at night. The version of the aviation complex, supplemented by radar, received its own designation Castor. However, the names "Aphrodite" and "Castor" were used in parallel to refer to the same machines, and the name Operation Aphrodite was still the main one.

In the summer of 1944, the American air fleet specialists began to re-equip the available equipment for new projects. The “Flying Fortresses”, which are being prepared for write-off, lost their standard equipment and received new equipment. From the cars that had not yet had time to work out their resources, control planes were made. By the beginning of August, several repair units had prepared 10 projectiles and 4 control vehicles. Subsequently, the assembly of the remotely controlled equipment continued, which allowed for combat sorties over the next few months.

Remote control systems: drive control knobs are visible in the center. Photo

The finished equipment was handed over to the 562 bomber squadron. Initially it was assumed that the base for the new aircraft will be the airfield of the Royal British Air Force Woodbridge (Suffolk County). Nevertheless, this air base was already actively used for the work of manned bomber. Joint operation of aircraft with pilots and radio control was considered unsafe. As a result, a squadron of aircraft "Aphrodite" was sent to the airport Fersfield (Norfolk). An additional advantage of this airfield was the relatively large length of the runway, which simplified the operation of BQ-7 aircraft.

Combat application

The first combat mission in Operation Aphrodite took place on 4 August 1944. Four projectiles and the same number of machines with control systems were sent to the targets at once. One of the BQ-7 aircraft was supposed to destroy the German complex under construction with a V-3 gun in France, but did not cope with this task. The crew lifted the car into the air, handed over control to the operator with the CQ-17 and jumped with parachutes. After that, however, the operator lost control, due to which the remotely controlled car fell and exploded. The second plane was supposed to destroy the bunker Sirakur (France) with launchers of missiles V-1, but also fell shortly after takeoff. The third and fourth projectiles were to attack the Bauvorhaben 21 and Ekerlek bunkers in France. One of the cars lost control and fell into the woods, killing the pilot. The explosion of 13,5 t torpex brought down about 8 thousand square meters of forest.

During the first combat departure, only one remotely controlled aircraft was able to reach the target area. During the flight, the television system was damaged, which did not allow the operator to correctly direct the projectile at the target. He fell a few hundred meters from the enemy object. A large crater formed at the site of the explosion, but the target itself did not receive any damage.

Smoke generator for visual tracking of the projectile. Photo

On August 6 a new attempt was made to attack the Eckerlek bunker, which used three BQ-7. The take-off was no problem, the operators were able to take control. A few minutes after that, one of the cars lost control and fell into the sea. Two other projectile aircraft also had some problems with receiving and executing commands, which did not fulfill the combat mission. One of the BQ-7 fell into the sea, and the second had to be brought back. He was hit by British anti-aircraft artillery in the area of ​​Ipswich.

During August, several more BQ-7 aircraft were used. The first flight, the purpose of which were German objects on the Helgoland archipelago, ended in failure. Raising the plane into the air, the pilot jumped with a parachute, but he did not open. BQ-7, in turn, successfully flew to the target area, where it was hit by enemy anti-aircraft gunners.

Soon, four pairs of Aphrodite aircraft were sent to attack oil refineries in Heide. Three projectile aircraft did not reach the target and fell long before it due to problems with control. Only one BQ-7 was able to fall next to the target. A powerful explosion caused noticeable damage to the attacked factory. It should be noted that this was the first and the last case of the successful accomplishment of an assigned combat task within the framework of the entire Operation Aphrodite.

Tail fairing with receiving antenna. Photo

13 August the only BQ-7 sent to attack the target in the city of Le Havre. The operator missed, because of which the projectile went away from the target. The explosion led to some destruction on the ground. In addition, the de Havilland Mosquito aircraft accompanying the percussion vehicles was destroyed by a blast wave and shrapnel. 11 September another pair of aircraft went to Helgoland to destroy the base of submarines. The enemy anti-aircraft artillery managed to knock down the strike machine before it fell to the target.

September 14 held a new raid on Heyda by two crews. Weather conditions in the area of ​​the target left much to be desired, because of which both BQ-7 fell away from the intended object. The same was the result of the attack on the Helgoland submarine base, which took place on October 15. Both involved projectile missed.

October 30 was another attempt to destroy the base of submarines in the archipelago near the German coast. Two complexes "Aphrodite" accompanied by fighters reached the main goal, but because of the deteriorated weather they had to go to the reserve - Berlin. One of the BQ-7 crashed during the flight due to the production of fuel, and the second, having lost control, flew in the direction of Sweden. Having spent the fuel, he fell into the sea.

BQ-7 in flight. Photo USAF /

5 December Two BQ-7 and two CQ-17 attacked a shipyard in Herford. Bad weather prevented finding the target, which is why the pilots adjusted their route. Attack reserve goal also failed, culminating in serious misses. On the first day of the next 1945, two BQ-7 were to attack the power station in Oldenburg. The enemy is well organized air defense, which is why both the projectile aircraft were shot down on the approach to the intended target.


From August 1944 to January 45, American pilots used at least two dozen BQ-7 projectiles and did not get noticeable results. In 13, the sorties managed to hit only one target - the Heide fuel plant. In all other cases, the aircraft either did not reach the goal, or missed it. In addition, the 562-th bomber regiment lost two pilots who could not normally leave their remotely controlled aircraft. Also the shock wave of one of the explosions destroyed the escort plane. Thus, the results of the operation of the original technology could not be considered at least satisfactory.

27 January 1945, Lieutenant General Karl E. Spaats signed an order for the further use of Aphrodite systems. The order canceled the operation and combat use of such equipment until the release of the relevant order. All remaining in the presence of aircraft BQ-7 and CQ-17 because of this, went to the parking lot and now had uncertain prospects. However, by this time it was hardly worth doubting the impossibility of further use of the original shock complex.

Undermining the projectile aircraft. Photo of

General Spaats ordered the suspension of Operation Aphrodite until new orders were issued. Those, as you can understand, did not follow. The order with a “streamlined” formulation actually put an end to the original draft. In the early stages, the proposal of General G.Kh. Arnold looked original and promising, but practice has shown the real capabilities of remote-controlled projectiles, rebuilt from serial long-range bombers. Despite all the efforts of the authors of the project and the pilots of the 562 regiment, two dozen BQ-7 aircraft could only damage one of the intended targets. A relatively complex complex with such low efficiency was not of interest to the army.

It should be noted that in parallel with the project Aphrodite a system of similar purpose was created called Anvil. This project was developed by order of the naval forces and, as a result, had some differences. In particular, PB8Y-4 aircraft was used as the basis for the BQ-1 aircraft of this complex. As in the case of the project "Aphrodite", specialists of the Navy had to face a lot of difficulties.

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  1. FlyEngine
    FlyEngine 21 December 2016 15: 24
    A lot of water, but the article, nevertheless, is interesting, because on a rare topic.
  2. novobranets
    novobranets 21 December 2016 16: 26
    The Germans also used such aircraft. Only management was different. On the U-88 bomb plane, the FV-190 fighter was mounted on top, the pilot of which brought the flying bomb to the target, for this purpose the carrier thrusts were connected to the steering rods of the fighter. Having set course on the target, the PV started the engine, undocked and left, and the Yu-88, stuffed with explosives, rushed to the attack. As far as I remember, the Germans were not satisfied with the accuracy of such a projectile, although the destructive power was not even frail.
  3. Alexey RA
    Alexey RA 21 December 2016 17: 09
    A relatively complex complex with such low efficiency was not of interest to the army.

    It's just that the Yankees had an example before their eyes of how the same problem can be solved by available means.
    617 Lime squadron hit unguided bombs on point objects - tunnels, viaducts and bunkers.
  4. Taoist
    Taoist 21 December 2016 20: 48
    Well, such systems of ours, long before the war, were developed, and even used a couple of times at the beginning of the war ... but also did not grow together. The bomber was too big a target and the then Russian Army was too inaccurate

    “At the end of 1941, one fully prepared TMS, which consisted of a TB-35 Torpedo (No. 00 3) equipped with a 22-kg high explosive bomb, and a DB-ZF command aircraft were at the jump airfield in Ivanovo. In January 707 This TMS was sent to destroy the Vyazma railway junction. On approaching Vyazma, the antenna of the DB-ZF command plane was interrupted by enemy anti-aircraft artillery fire, so the uncontrolled TB-1942 Torpedo went to the rear of the German troops. The second copy of the “telemechanical” plane burned at the airfield during an explosion of ammunition in a nearby bomber. After that, work on telemechanical aircraft in the Soviet Union was stopped. " (from)
  5. voyaka uh
    voyaka uh 22 December 2016 09: 26
    Very interesting.
    Curious how mechanical drives tried to make
    remotely controlled.
    1. novobranets
      novobranets 23 December 2016 04: 11
      As usual, electric motors, solenoids and an actuator. The first primitive electric drives appeared in the late 19th - early 20th centuries.
  6. Hapfri
    Hapfri 27 December 2016 08: 02
    Americans did not make sense to get involved with such alterations. Firstly, they had 10-ton bombs, and secondly, multiple superiority in the air, allowing these bombs to be used.