In April 1996, the secretary of defence selected the US Air Force as the operating service for the RQ-1 Predator system. The ‘R’ is the Department of Defence (DOD) designation for reconnaissance aircraft. The ‘M’ is the DOD designation for multi-role, and ‘Q’ means unmanned aircraft system. The ‘1’ refers to the aircraft being the first of the series of remotely piloted aircraft systems.
A change in designation from RQ-1 to MQ-1 occurred in 2002 with the addition of the AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. During August 2011, Predator passed its one millionth total development, test, training, and combat hours mark – a significant accomplishment for the US Air Force.
Primary Function: Armed reconnaissance, airborne surveillance, and target acquisition
Contractor: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.
Power Plant: Rotax 914F four cylinder engine
Thrust: 115 horsepower
Wingspan: 55 feet (16.8 meters)
Length: 27 feet (8.22 meters)
Height: 6.9 feet (2.1 meters)
Weight: 1,130 pounds (512 kilograms) empty
Fuel Capacity: 665 pounds (100 gallons)
Speed: Cruise speed around 84 mph (70 knots), up to 135 mph
Range: Up to 770 miles (675 nautical miles)
Ceiling: Up to 25,000 feet (7,620 meters)
Armament: Two laser-guided AGM-114 Hellfire missiles
Crew (remote): Two (pilot and sensor operator)
Unit Cost: $20 million (fiscal 2009 dollars) (includes four aircraft, a ground control station and a Predator Primary Satellite Link)