Friday, August 7, 2009
The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which the United States Air Force describes as a MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) UAV system. It can serve in a reconnaissance role and fire two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The aircraft, in use since 1995, has seen combat over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq, and Yemen. In addition, since 2005, U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses the aircraft (unarmed) for border patrol within the U.S. It is a remote-controlled aircraft.
The MQ-1 Predator is a system, not just an aircraft. The fully operational system consists of four air vehicles (with sensors), a ground control station (GCS), and a Predator primary satellite link communication suite. In the overall U.S. Air Force integrated UAV system the Predator is considered a "Tier II" vehicle.
The Predator system was initially designated the RQ-1 Predator. The "R" is the Department of Defense designation for reconnaissance and the "Q" refers to an unmanned aircraft system. The "1" describes it as being the first of a series of aircraft systems built for unmanned reconnaissance. Pre-production systems were designated as RQ-1A, while the RQ-1B (not to be confused with the RQ-1 Predator B, which became the MQ-9 Reaper) denotes the baseline production configuration. It should be emphasized that these are designations of the system as a unit. The actual aircraft themselves were designated RQ-1K for pre-production models, and RQ-1L for production models. In 2005, the USAF officially changed the designation to MQ-1 (the "M" designates multi-role) to reflect its growing use as an armed aircraft.
As of 2009[update] the U.S. Air Force’s fleet stands at 195 Predators and 28 Reapers.
More than one third of all deployed Predator spy planes have crashed. 55 were lost because of "equipment failure, operator errors or weather". Four of them were shot down in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq; 11 were lost in combat situations, such as "running out of fuel while protecting troops under fire."
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