The McDonnell ADM-20 Quail was a subsonic, jet powered, air-launched decoy cruise missile built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. The Quail was designed to be launched by the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber and its original United States Air Force designation was GAM-72 (GAM standing for Guided Aircraft Missile).
In 1955 the USAF started a major effort to construct decoy missiles. The goal of this effort was to improve the ability of strategic bombers to penetrate air-defense systems. The projects initiated under this effort included the MX-2223 which produced the XSM-73 Goose a long range ground-launched jet-powered, decoy cruise missile, MX-2224 which produced the XGAM-71 Buck Duck an air-launched rocket powered decoy missile to equip the Convair B-36.
The USAF was at the same time developing the XQ-4 as a supersonic target drone to support the Bomarc Missile Program. A requirement was established by the USAF Power Plant Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to support follow-on production of the XQ-4. This requirement called for a small jet engine in the 2,000 lbf (8.9 kN) thrust class with a high thrust-to-weight ratio of (10:1). On November 28, 1954 General Electric was awarded a USAF development contract to construct the XJ-85-GE-1. The USAF designated the XJ85 project MX-2273.
During April 1955, the USAF began a program to develop a short range air-launched decoy missile to simulate the radar cross section of a bomber. On January 18, 1956, the USAF released General Operational Requirement (GOR) 139.