The IAI RQ-5 Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was originally intended to serve as the United States Army’s Short Range UAV system for division and corps commanders. It took off and landed (using arresting gear) on runways. It used a gimbaled EO/IR sensor to relay its video in real time via a second airborne Hunter over a C-band line-of-sight data link. The RQ-5 is based on the Hunter UAV that was developed by Israel Aircraft Industries.
Hunter deployed in 1999 to Kosovo to support NATO operations. Although production was cancelled in 1996, seven low rate initial production (LRIP) systems of eight aircraft each were acquired, four of which remained in service: one for training and three for doctrine development and exercise and contingency support. Hunter was to be replaced by the RQ-7 Shadow, but instead of being replaced, the Army’s has kept both systems in operation, because the Hunter has significantly larger payload, range, and time-on-station capabilities than the Shadow.
Significant operation success in Kosovo led to resumption of production and technical improvements, and the system is at present in operational use in Iraq and other military operations. The system has also been armed with the Viper Strike munition.
The Army’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training Battalion at Fort Huachuca, AZ trains soldiers and civilians in the operation and maintenance of the Hunter UAV.
In 2004, the United States Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, Office of Air and Marine utilized the Hunter under a trial program for border patrol duties. During this program, the Hunter flew 329 flight hours, resulting in 556 detections.
A version armed with the Northrop Grumman GBU-44/B Viper Strike weapon system is known as the MQ-5A/B.
As of October 2012, the U.S. Army has 20 MQ-5B Hunters in service. The Hunter is being slowly replaced by the MQ-1C Grey Eagle. Retirement of the Hunter was expected to be completed in 2013. However, Northrop was awarded a support contract for the Hunter on January 22, 2013. The completion date for the contract is January 14, 2014, so the Hunter UAV is likely to be flying missions into 2014.
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|Israel||Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)||Tel Aviv||http://www.iai.co.il|