|Predator - Safely Behind the Lines|
Predator -- a fierce name for a warplane that could not hurt you unless it fell on you, but that is the name assigned to the MQ-1B pilotless surveillance aircraft by the United States Air Force.
The Predator and its smaller brother the Hunter are known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. Equipped with video cameras, UAVs fly low and slow over enemy territory under remote control gathering real-time intelligence on enemy location, movement and strength.
Throughout the history of warfare, military leaders have searched for ways to secretly gather information about enemy troop movements and strength levels. Until UAVs came along, this intelligence-gathering job was assigned to spies, surveillance squads, or forward observers. These methods take time and place the personnel involved at great risk of being killed or captured. UAV's provide battlefield planners with instantaneous intelligence with little or no risk to personnel.
UAV controllers operate all flight and camera functions from a satellite-linked, mobile ground control station located a safe distance from the action. While it flies solo, a crew of 55 people are required to command and service a full UAV unit of four aircraft and ground control stations.
Battlefield environments in which UAVs are typically assigned include areas where enemy air defenses have not been fully defeated, oceans and lakes, and areas in which biological or chemical weapons or contamination may be present.
Already patrolling the no-fly zone in Iraq, the Predator and Hunter are sure to log many hours in missions over the mountains and canyons of Afghanistan. In fact, they may already have.
Early on the morning of Sept. 22, 2001, forces of Afghanistan's Taliban government claimed to have shot down a UAV near the Afghan capital of Kabul. The U.S. Defense Department would not comment on the claim. At least two U.S. UAVs have been confirmed lost to Iraqi anti-aircraft while monitoring the no-fly zone maintained since the Gulf War.
UAV's have no defensive capabilities whatsoever and depend on their small size, maneuverability and quite flight to avoid being spotted by the enemy.
Details in the Predator UAV - U.S. Air Force:
The Predator air vehicle and sensors are commanded and controlled by its GCS via a C-band line-of-sight data link or a Ku-band satellite data link for beyond-line-of-sight operations. During flight operations the crew in the GCS is an air vehicle operator and three sensor operators. The aircraft is equipped with a color nose camera (generally used by the air vehicle operator for flight control), a day variable aperture TV camera, a variable aperture infrared camera (for low light/night) and a synthetic aperture radar for looking through smoke, clouds or haze. The cameras produce full motion video and the synthetic aperture radar produces still frame radar images.
Power Plant: RQ-1A Rotax 912 four cylinder engine producing 81 horsepower, RQ-1B 914 four cylinder turbo-charged engine producing 105 horsepower Length: 27 feet (8.22 meters) Height: 6.9 feet (2.1 meters) Weight: 950 pounds Wingspan: 48.7 feet (14.8 meters)
Speed: Cruise speed around 84 mph (70 knots), up to 140 mph (120 knots) Range: up to 400 nautical miles (454 miles) and then providing 16 hours of on station time before returning Ceiling: up to 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) System Cost: $25 million (1999 dollars)