General Atomics’ Predator A remotely piloted aircraft has completed 25 years of service this month, the company has announced.
The MQ-1 Predator made its first flight in July 1994 and made its operational debut in 1995. The aircraft saw combat in the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the NATO intervention in Bosnia, Serbia, the Iraq War, Yemen, the 2011 Libyan civil war, the 2014 intervention in Syria, and Somalia.
The drone remained in production until 2011. They have flown close to 141,000 missions and over two million total flight hours. More than 90 percent of those hours were flown supporting combat missions.
The company won its first major program award for the Predator A in 1994 from the US Joint Program Office, which was later transferred to the US Air Force. They have been extensively used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
In addition to the US, the Predator A was purchased by the Italian Ministry of Defense for the Italian Air Force, and later in a modernized version known as the Predator XP for the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Initially conceived for aerial reconnaissance and forward observation roles, the Predator carries cameras and other sensors. It was modified and upgraded to carry and fire AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and other munitions. The Predator A consists of four aircraft or "air vehicles" with sensors, a ground control station (GCS), and a primary satellite link communication suite. Powered by a Rotax engine and driven by a propeller, the air vehicle could fly up to 740 km (460 miles) to a target, loiter overhead for 14 hours, then return to its base.