General Atomics RQ-1K Predator

One of the most advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in the world, the Predator was designed to provide the U.S. Air Force an airborne tactical reconnaissance platform. The Predator is actually more a system than just an airframe; it is comprised of four aircraft, a ground control station, a satellite communications terminal, and 55 personnel. In flight, the aircraft is controlled by a ground crew with a direct data link or, when beyond range of the direct link, by satellite. Equipment carried in the turret under the nose provides live video, still images or radar imagery in all-weather conditions, day or night. Information can be shared instantly with military commanders around the world.

In January 1994, the Department of Defense awarded a contract for 10 Predator aircraft to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems of San Diego, California, and the first Predator flew just six months later in July 1994. Within a year, Predators deployed to Europe, where they proved their value in operations over Bosnia from July 1995 to March 1996. In April 1996, the Secretary of Defense selected the USAF as the operating service for the RQ-1 Predator system, and the system entered production in August 1997. In subsequent deployments, the Predator continued to prove its value to military leaders.

Powered by a four cylinder, Rotax piston engine, which drives a two-blade pusher propeller, the RQ-1K aircraft can cruise at 87 miles per hour for 16 hours. The aircraft features an inverted V-tail, has fully retractable tricycle landing gear and takes off and lands like a conventional aircraft. It has a fixed nose-mounted color TV camera for remote piloting; for automatic navigation, it is equipped with a GPS-aided inertial guided navigation system.

The Museum’s Predator made its first flight on October 24, 1997, and saw action during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia during deployments in 1999 and late 2000. During its operational history with the Air Force, it flew 418 times. The RQ-1K Predator on display is the eighteenth built and is on loan from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

San Diego Air & Space Museum

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