MSgt. Leroy Lewis and launch crew with a YOQ-19 RCAT on JATO launch rail..
I am MSgt. Leroy Lewis, U.S. Army Retired. I retired in 1963. At the time of my retirement I was in the RCAT Battery, Ft Bliss, Texas.
I first started working with RCATS in 1949. RCAT stands for Radio Controlled Aerial Target. I had just returned from overseas and was assigned to the 35th AA Brigade at Ft. Bliss, Texas. When I reported in to the brigade they told me that my orders were no good. I was to report to the replacement Company on the main post. At the replacement Company they checked my records and told me that I would have to give up my combat pay if I wanted to go to the 35th. I said no I would not give up the $10.00 a month. ( In WW2 I was in the Infantry and received Combat pay). A day or so later a Capt. came to the Company and wanted to see me. He wanted to know if I would like to work with Drones. I had never heard of a drone but was interested. He told me to stop by their shop and they would show me around. I did and I liked what I saw. I was assigned to the OQ Section of the Antiaircraft and Guide Missile School. They flew Drones for the school troops. At the time they flew two kinds of Drones: The OQ 3 and the OQ 14. A few months later we received a new Drone called the YOQ 19. This was an all metal Drone. (The OQ 3 and the OQ 14 were covered with dope and fabric) The YOQ 19 had a 65 horse power engine. It had one aileron, a rudder and an elevator. Later when the production model came out, it was called the OQ 19A. This Drone had two ailerons and no rudder.
Our commander was a Capt. assigned to the 1st GM Group in the late summer of 1950. He took three men with him, myself, one other sergeant. and a corporal. Our job was to form a new unit called the Q1 section. The Q1 was a Jet Drone. This was the Drone that the Nike was to fire at. It never was put into production.
Pictured is a Q2, I am in the center in back sitting on the wing.
We were given a new job; to set up a school to train RCAT units. We trained 26 National Guard units and 12 Air Force units. The school became permanent. At the same time we flew the OQ 19D Drone for the Lark Missile. At first I was with the radio section and later I learned how to fly the Drones and became an instructor. I kept that job until we started to fly for the Nike. When we received orders to go to Oscura, the school was transferred to the Antiaircraft and Guided Missile school.
OSCURA RANGE CAMP
Before we could fly for the Nike, the Army had to find a way to make the Drone look bigger. There were three things that had to be tested: an X-band transponder, a sleeve and corner reflectors. The tests would be done at White Sands. Since White Sands had no Drone unit, we were given the job. The test would be done at a Radar site called C Station. The Company that was to make the transponder never showed up. The sleeve didn't work, so the only thing left was the corner reflector. There was no Rotary launcher at White Sands so we had to launch from a Rotary launcher at Oro Grande. This was 10 miles from C Station. We had a controller launch the Drone and then fly it toward C Station. When I was able to see it I would take over the controls. When the Radar locked on I would go inside and fly it.
Well, they launch the Drone, transferred the controls to me. I went inside and the man in charged told me to fly it north until the Nike Radar lost it. It seamed like a very long time before we heard over the PA system that they had lost the Drone. They then gave us the range. It was 86,000 yards. That is about 50 miles. I was then told to bring it home.
It wasn't long after that when we received the first Wing Pods. We then left for Oscura.
At first we flew from the White Sands Radar. It was the same type of set up as C Station. Later we received an M-33 radar. We later received a second radar and started to fly two Drones at a time. We then received two more radars and started to fly three at a time. A year or two later Capt. M came down to Oscura and wanted to know if we could fly four at a time. I told him yes if we had the equipment. He asked, "What do you need?" I told him. A few weeks later we received two more radars. We now had six of them. We were now flying four planes at a time.
By this time Red Canyon was having a problem finding time to fire all its Missiles. One afternoon a car stopped at Oscura and an Officer got out of the car and told one of my men that he wanted to see Sgt. Lewis. I went over to see him, he wanted to know if we could fly at night. I said I didn't know, I never tried. I told him that once the radar locked on the Drone it didn't make any difference if it was night or day. We can't see it any how. I also told him that we would need lights on the Drone to launch it and to land it. Well he left. My crew wanted to know what he wanted. I told them. I told them we had better find out or some one else would be telling us how to do it. We didn't like other people telling us how to our job. Well we launched one that night. It flew just fine. We had a few bugs to work out. One was how to turn the lights off and on after the Drone was airborne.
One of the men back at our shop in Ft Bliss came up with a very good idea. The Drone has a trim command. A left and right trim. We never need the left trim so he came up with an idea on how to use it. Some times the Drone will drift to the left. We correct the problem by using the right trim. There is 14 degrees of right trim; if the Drone does drift to the right we have 8 degrees of left trim. To turn the lights on I would push the trim button 7 times we now would have 14 degrees of right trim. If I would push the trim button one more time I now would have 8 degrees of left trim. I would then push the button 3 more times, I now would have 2 degrees of left trim. This would now turn the lights on. Push it one more time we would have 0 trim and the lights would go off. ( Each time you push the button the trim would move 2 degrees until you had 14 degrees Push it one more time and it would go to 8 degrees left trim. After that it would move 2 degrees each time you push the button.