How A Rogue 1950s Drone Fiasco Ended With 208 Rockets Fired At Southern California

Here’s a great story about an aerial battle between the U.S. Air Force and a rogue drone over southern California in 1956, which became known as the Battle of Palmdale. Some World War II fighter planes were converted to radio-control so they could be flown as practice targets. One such unmanned plane took off on August 16, 1956, from Point Mugu Naval Air Station with its mission to be shot down over the Pacific Ocean.

Soon after takeoff, though, something happened. Perhaps it was during the switchover from ground-based control to aerial ‘mothership’ radio control, or perhaps the Hellcat felt that air coursing over its wings and thought, dammit, I want to live – it’s not clear what happened. What is clear is that the drone stopped responding to radio commands and started heading in a gentle curve and climb to the southeast.

To Los Angeles.

At this point, I can imagine very clearly a room of competent, wide-eyed men in uniforms with ties loosened and sleeves rolled up sitting around control panels, all momentarily frozen, one collective thought going through all their minds: oh, shit.

The last thing they needed was for an out-of control unmanned plane to crash into the city. Officials at the naval base called the Air Force, where fighter planes equipped with rockets were scrambled to chase the drone. These were experimental rockets, designed for a very different task, and they did not work as intended. The ensuing battle reads like a Keystone Kops script, and when you think the story is over, the destruction is only beginning. The tale unfolds at Foxtrot Alpha. -via Metafilter   


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