The Fairey Firefly U.8 was a pilotless target drone based on the Firefly T.7 and used to test a number of early anti-aircraft missiles. Work on producing a target drone based on the Firefly began in 1952. Fairey installed a radio-controlled Mk.8 automatic pilot and removed all unnecessary cockpit equipment, although it was still possible to fly the aircraft with a normal crew. The Rotol propeller was locked at 2600rpm. Four cameras were installed in two camera pods, one at each wing tip.
The first six U.8s were produced by converting existing T.7s. A second order was then placed for 34 aircraft. The first two were built by converting two T.7s that were close to completion, while the remaining 32 represented the last new Firefly construction, ending when the fortieth U.8 was delivered on 20 April 1956. A third order, for another forty drones, had to be filled by converting FR.5s to the U.9 standard.
The U.8 made its maiden flight on 30 December 1954 from Fairey's test field at Ringway. Most of them were used by the Royal Aircraft Establishment from its base at Llanbedr, where the first flight was made in February 1955. These flights needed three remote controllers, one following the Firefly in a 'shepherd' aircraft and two on the ground to land the drone.
The first successful 'hit' came on 29 September 1955, when a Firefly U.8 was shot down by a Firestreak missile launched from a De Havilland Venom. The drones were also used to develop the Seaslug surface-to-air missile, while five were shot down by Canadian McDonnell F2H-3 Banshees armed with Sidewinder missiles.
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