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Posted 10/1/2007 Printable Fact Sheet
Quail Aerial Decoy
McDonnell ADM-20C-40-MC "Quail" Aerial Decoy S/N 61-633
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McDonnell ADM-20C-40-MC "Quail" Aerial Decoy
S/N 61-633

Crew:  None
Engine:   One General Electric J85-GE-7 turbojet; 2,450 lbs thrust
Wingspan:   5 ft 4.5 in (wings unfolded)
Length:   12 ft 10.6 in
Height:   3 ft 3.5 in (wings unfolded)
Weight:   1,198 lbs
Speed:   0.85 mach at 50,000 ft; 0.8 mach (650 mph) at 35,000 ft
Range:   460 nautical miles at 50,000 ft; 393 miles at 35,000 ft
Service Ceiling:   Over 50,000 ft
Armament:   None

In October 1952 the Strategic Air Command issued requirements for an air-launched decoy that could be carried by its Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers and released just prior to penetrating enemy airspace. It would be used during an actual bombing attack to confuse and saturate an enemy's defensive radar network, and would therefore have to produce a radar image identical to that of the B-52 and fly at approximately the same speed and altitude, executing roughly the same maneuvers.

With decoys and actual B-52s penetrating an enemy's airspace, it would be very difficult for that enemy to distinguish one from the other on radar. Enemy defensive resources would be diverted from at least some of the "real" B-52s, increasing their chances of completing their bombing missions successfully. The decoy was originally classified as a "guided aircraft missile" and designated the GAM-72 Green Quail, although in June 1963 it was revised to be an "air decoy missile," the ADM-20 Quail.

McDonnell Aircraft Corporation responded with a preliminary design for a cropped-delta-wing decoy composed largely of fiberglass which a B-52 could carry internally. McDonnell subsequently received a development contract in February 1956. Flight trials of the XGAM-72 got underway in November 1958 and a contract for production was awarded on December 31, 1958. The first production GAM-72A flew in November 1960 as deliveries to SAC squadrons got underway. The Quail system was declared combat-ready in February 1961. A total of about 600 Quail decoys of all variants were eventually built.

The Quail's guidance components were built by Summers Gyroscope and the countermeasures equipment by Ramo-Wooldridge. Using a combination of radar reflectors, chaff, electronic repeaters, and infrared simulators to mimic the large B-52 bomber, the diminutive decoy could be programmed to execute at least one change in cruising speed and two turns after being released from its B-52 carrier. Powered by a single General Electric J85-GE-7 turbojet engine, the Quail could achieve a maximum speed of Mach 0.85 at 50,000 feet.

With wings and fins folded to save space, Quail decoys were transported in pairs in special containers at the rear of the weapons bay of the B-52. (The B-52G could carry four Quails internally.) The radar navigator was responsible for executing the start-up procedure and launching the decoys, which could also be jettisoned in case of an in-flight emergency. To launch a Quail, the special container was first lowered from the aircraft by a retractable arm and the engine started. The flight surfaces would automatically deploy upon release and the Quail would set off on its way.

The Quail remained in front-line service through the 1960s, but was eventually supplanted by the advent of the AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missile (SRAM), which effectively reduced the exposure of attacking bombers to enemy air defenses. In addition, during a test exercise in 1972, radar operators were able to spot the decoy 21 times out of 23 tests. The Air Force soon began to phase out the Quail, and most were out of service by 1978. However, the decoy's career did not officially end until 1989, when a shortage of spare parts caused it to be totally withdrawn from active duty.

On March 6, 1956, a directive from USAF Air Materiel Command headquarters named the Ogden Air Materiel Area at Hill AFB the Lead AMA for the GAM-72 Green Quail missile system. However, in June 1957, Air Materiel Command revamped its missile system assignments and all "Guided Aircraft Missiles," including the GAM-72 Green Quail system, was reassigned to the Oklahoma City AMA. Despite this change, the Ogden AMA continued to serve as the prime maintenance and supply depot for the decoy's components and parts.

The ADM-20C Quail on display was assigned to the Hill AFB Heritage Program in August 1982 by the United States Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. It arrived at the base in October 1982 and was relocated to Hill Aerospace Museum when it opened in 1986.

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