Firebird in the rocket garden
- Hangar C, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Type: Air-to-air guided missile
Serial Number: M-14437
Payload: Conventional warhead
Agency: U.S. Air Force
Contractor: The Ryan Aeronautical Company
Firebird was one of the first U.S. Air Force air-to-air missiles. Development began in early 1946 and flight testing occurred between late 1947 and the middle of 1949 at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The missile was designed to accomplish all-weather terminal guidance to its target via an active radar homing device located in the nose.
After being launched from its parent aircraft, a solid-fueled booster motor providing a thrust of 2,800 pounds powered the Firebird in the early stage of its flight. This booster motor was later blown off, and four small solid-fueled motors each providing a thrust of 155 pounds carried the Firebird toward its target at cruising speed.
Once the missile reached its target, a 90 pound high explosive warhead was detonated by a proximity fuse. A limited number of Firebird missiles were manufactured and test-launched from F-82 jet fighters and B-26 twin engine attack bombers. The F-82 “Twin Mustang” aircraft could carry two Firebird missiles under each wing.
The Firebird was on display in the Museum Rocket Garden until it was removed in October 2010 for a major restoration. The restored Firebird was returned to the museum on 11 February 2011.