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The Northrop Grumman (formerly Ryan Aeronautical) RQ-4 Global Hawk (known as Tier II+ during development) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used by the United States Air Force as a surveillance aircraft.

In role and design, the Global Hawk is similar to the Lockheed U-2, the venerable 1950s spy plane. It is a theater commander's asset to both provide a broad overview and systematically target surveillance shortfalls. The Global Hawk air vehicle is able to provide high resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)—that can penetrate cloud-cover and sandstorms—and Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) imagery at long range with long loiter times over target areas. It can survey as much as 40,000 square miles (100,000 square kilometers) of terrain a day.

Potential missions for the Global Hawk cover the spectrum of intelligence collection capability to support forces in worldwide peace, crisis, and wartime operations. According to the Air Force, the capabilities of the aircraft will allow more precise targeting of weapons and better protection of forces through superior surveillance capabilities.

The "R" is the Department of Defense designation for reconnaissance; "Q" means unmanned aircraft system. The "4" refers to it being the fourth of a series of purpose-built unmanned aircraft systems.

The Global Hawk costs about $35 million USD each[1] (actual per-aircraft costs; with development costs also included, the per-aircraft cost rises to $123.2 million USD each

RQ-4 Global Hawk.ogv
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RQ-4 Global Hawk USAF video

[edit] Initial development

The first seven aircraft were built under the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program, sponsored by DARPA,[3] in order to evaluate the design and its capabilities. Due to world circumstances, the capabilities of the aircraft were in high demand, so the prototype aircraft were operated by the U.S. Air Force in theater in the War in Afghanistan.

In an unusual move, the aircraft entered initial low-rate production concurrently while still in engineering and manufacturing development. Nine production Block 10 aircraft (sometimes referred to as RQ-4A configuration) were produced, two of which were transferred to the US Navy. Two more were sent to Iraq to support operations there. The final Block 10 aircraft was delivered on June 26, 2006.[4]

In order to increase the aircraft's capabilities, the airframe was redesigned, with the nose section and wings being stretched. The changes, with the designation RQ-4 Block 20, allow the aircraft to carry up to 3,000 pounds of internal payload. These changes were introduced with the first Block 20 aircraft, the 17th Global Hawk produced, which was rolled out in a ceremony on August 25, 2006.[5] First flight of the Block 20 from the USAF Plant 42 in Palmdale, California to Edwards Air Force Base took place on March 1, 2007. Developmental testing of Block 20 took place in and 2008. Future Block 30 and 40 aircraft, similar in size to the Block 20, are scheduled for development from 2008 to 2010. [6]

[edit] Cost overruns

Program development cost overruns had put the Global Hawk system at risk of cancellation. Per-unit costs in mid-2006 were 25% over baseline estimates, caused by both the need to correct design deficiencies as well as increase the system's capabilities. This caused some concerns about a possible congressional termination of the program if its national security benefits could not be justified.[7][8] However, in June 2006, the Global Hawk program was restructured. Completion of an operational assessment report by the Air Force was slipped due to manufacturing and development delays from August 2005 to November 2007. The operational assessment report was released in March 2007 and production of the 54 air vehicles planned has been extended by two years to 2015.[9]

[edit] United States Navy

The United States Navy took delivery of two of the Block 10 aircraft to be used to evaluate maritime surveillance capabilities, designated N-1. The initial example, Bureau Number 166509, was tested in a naval configuration at Edwards Air Force Base for several months, later ferrying to NAS Patuxent River on March 28, 2006 to begin the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) program. Navy squadron VX-20 was tasked with operating the GHMD system.[10][11] [12]

In the spring of 2006, the GHMD aircraft took part in a demonstration of the type's ability to conduct maritime drug interdiction surveillance, completing four flights over the Caribbean and off the coast of Florida, locating and identifying numerous airborne and surface targets.[13]

The GHMD aircraft flew in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise for the first time in July, 2006. Although RIMPAC operations were in the vicinity of Hawaii, the aircraft was operated from Edwards, requiring flights of approximately 2,500 miles (4,000 km) each way to the operations area. Four flights were performed, resulting in over 24 hours of persistent maritime surveillance coordinated with USS Abraham Lincoln and Bonhomme Richard. As a part of the demonstration program, Global Hawk was tasked with maintenance of maritime situational awareness, contact tracking, and imagery support of various exercise operations. The imagery obtained by Global Hawk was transmitted to NAS Patuxent River for processing before being forwarded on to the fleet operations off Hawaii, thus exercising the global nature of this aircraft's operations.[14]

Northrop Grumman entered a version of the RQ-4B in the US Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV contract competition. On 22 April 2008 the announcement was made that the Northrop Grumman RQ-4N had won the bid, with the Navy awarding a contract worth $1.16 billion.[15]

[edit] NASA

In December 2007, two Global Hawks were transferred from the U.S. Air Force to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. Initial research activities beginning in the second quarter of 2009 will support NASA's high-altitude, long-duration Earth science missions.[16][17] The two Global Hawks were the first and sixth aircraft built under the original DARPA Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program, and were made available to NASA when the Air Force had no further need for them. [3] Northrop Grumman is an operational partner with NASA and will use the aircraft to demonstrate new technologies and to develop new markets for the aircraft, including possible civilian uses.[17]

[edit] NATO

NATO has announced that it expects to have a fleet of up to eight Global Hawks by the year 2012. The aircraft are to be equipped with MP-RTIP radar systems. NATO has budgeted €1 billion for the project, and a letter of intent has been signed, although contracting with Northrop Grumman has not been finalized. [18]

[edit] Luftwaffe
EuroHawk mock-up at the ILA 2006

The German Luftwaffe has ordered a variant of the RQ-4B equipped with European sensors, dubbed EuroHawk. It combines a normal RQ-4B airframe with an EADS reconnaissance payload.

The aircraft is based on the Block 20/30/40 RQ-4B, but will be equipped with EADS' SIGINT package to fulfil Germany's desire to replace their aging Dassault-Breguet Atlantique electronic surveillance aircraft.[citation needed] A first batch of 5 EuroHawks will be delivered for the Luftwaffe from 2010 on.

The costs for the initial five aircraft are approx. €430 million for the development, and €430 million for the actual procurement.

[edit] Potential operators

Australia had considered the purchase of a number of Global Hawk aircraft for maritime and land surveillance. The Global Hawk was to be assessed against the RQ-1 Mariner in trials in 2007.[19] If selected the Global Hawk aircraft would have operated in conjunction with manned P-8A Poseidon aircraft by 10 and 11 Squadrons of the RAAF. This combination, or a similar one, would replace existing AP-3C Orion aircraft in 2018. With the current economic situation, and the delivery schedule pushed back to 2015; the Australian government had decided to cancel the order. [20]

Canada is also a potential customer, looking at the Global Hawk for maritime and land surveillance as either a replacement for its fleet of CP-140 Aurora patrol aircraft or to supplement manned patrols of remote Arctic and maritime environments. Spain has a similar requirement, and has existing contacts with Northrop Grumman. [21]

South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) had expressed interest in acquiring at least four RQ-4B and support equipment by 2011 to increase the intelligence capabilities of the South Korean military after the return of the Wartime Operational Control from the U.S. to ROK, and has allocated approximately USD$19m for evaluation purposes. There is ongoing debate among government officials on whether to take the US offer of Global Hawks or to press on with their domestic UAV development program.

[edit] Design

The RQ-4 is powered by an Allison Rolls-Royce AE3007H turbofan engine with 7,050lbf (3,200 kgf / 31.4 kN) thrust, and carries a payload of 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms). The fuselage is mostly of conventional aluminum airframe construction, while the wings are made of carbon composite.

The Global Hawk is the first UAV to be certified by the FAA to file its own flight plans and use civilian air corridors in the United States with no advance notice.[22] This potentially paves the way for a revolution in unmanned flight, including that of remotely piloted cargo or passenger airliners.

[edit] Integrated system
The Global Hawk's wings, fuselage, fairings, nacelles, and tails are manufactured from high strength-to-weight composites.

The Global Hawk UAV system comprises an air vehicle segment consisting of air vehicles with sensor payloads, avionics, and data links; a ground segment consisting of a Launch and Recovery Element (LRE), and a Mission Control Element (MCE) with embedded ground communications equipment; a support element; and trained personnel.

The Integrated Sensor Suite (ISS) is provided by Raytheon and consists of a synthetic aperture radar (SAR), electro-optical (EO), and infrared (IR) sensors. Either the EO or the IR sensors can operate simultaneously with the SAR. Each of the sensors provides wide area search imagery and a high-resolution spot mode. The SAR has a ground moving target indicator (GMTI) mode, which can provide a text message providing the moving target's position and velocity. Both SAR and EO/IR imagery are processed onboard the aircraft and transmitted to the MCE as individual frames. The MCE can mosaic these frames into images prior to further dissemination.

Navigation is via inertial navigation with integrated Global Positioning System updates. Global Hawk is intended to operate autonomously and "untethered" using a satellite data link (either Ku or UHF) for sending sensor data from the aircraft to the MCE. The common data link can also be used for direct down link of imagery when the UAV is operating within line-of-sight of users with compatible ground stations.

The ground segment consists of a Mission Control Element (MCE) and Launch and Recovery Element (LRE), provided by Raytheon. The MCE is used for mission planning, command and control, and image processing and dissemination; an LRE for controlling launch and recovery; and associated ground support equipment. (The LRE provides precision differential global positioning system corrections for navigational accuracy during takeoff and landings, while precision coded GPS supplemented with an inertial navigation system is used during mission execution.) By having separable elements in the ground segment, the MCE and the LRE can operate in geographically separate locations, and the MCE can be deployed with the supported command's primary exploitation site. Both ground segments are contained in military shelters with external antennas for line-of-sight and satellite communications with the air vehicles.

[edit] Sensor packages

The Global Hawk carries the "Hughes Integrated Surveillance & Reconnaissance (HISAR)" sensor system. HISAR is a lower-cost derivative of the ASARS-2 package that Hughes developed for the Lockheed U-2. HISAR is also fitted in the US Army's RC-7B Airborne Reconnaissance Low Multifunction (ARLM) manned surveillance aircraft, and is being sold on the international market. HISAR integrates a SAR-MTI system, along with an optical and an infrared imager. All three sensors are controlled and their outputs filtered by a common processor. The digital sensor data can be transmitted at up to 50 Mbit/s to a ground station in real time, either directly or through a communications satellite link.

The SAR-MTI system operates in the X-band and provides a number of operational modes:

* The wide-area MTI mode can detect moving targets within a radius of 62 miles (100 kilometers).
* The combined SAR-MTI strip mode provides 20 foot (6 meter) resolution over a swath 23 miles (37 kilometers) wide at ranges from 12.4 to 68 miles (20 to 110 kilometers).
* The SAR spot mode can provide 6 foot (1.8 meter) resolution over 3.8 square miles (10 square kilometers), as well as provide a sea-surveillance function.

The visible and infrared imagers share the same gimballed sensor package, and use common optics, providing a telescopic close-up capability. It can be optionally fitted with an auxiliary SIGINT package. To improve survivability, the Global Hawk is fitted with a Raytheon developed AN/ALR-89 self-protection suite consisting of the AN/AVR-3 Laser Warning System, AN/APR-49 Radar Warning Receiver and a jamming system. An ALE-50 towed decoy also aids in the Global Hawk's deception of enemy air defenses.[23] [24]

In July, 2006, the Air Force began testing segments of the improved Global Hawk Block 30 upgrades in the Benefield Anechoic Facility at Edwards AFB. This version incorporates an extremely sensitive SIGINT processor known as the Advanced Signals Intelligence Payload. [25]

In September 2006, testing began on a new specialty radar system, the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program, or MP-RTIP, onboard the Scaled Composites Proteus. Once validated, one Global Hawk will be modified to carry this radar set, and the other, larger variant (known as the Wide-Area Surveillance or WAS sensor) will be installed on the Air Force E-10 MC2A testbed or E-8 Joint STARS aircraft.

[edit] Operational history

Air Force Global Hawk flight test evaluations are performed by the 452nd Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB. Operational USAF aircraft are flown by the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, 12th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base. While testing the first two production aircraft, a delay in take off required a late night call to file a flight plan. When FAA received the call to fill in fields on his computer for SOBs (souls on board), his reply was, 'the computer can't take 0'.

Global Hawk ATCD prototypes have been used in the War in Afghanistan and in the Iraq War. While their data-collection capabilities have been praised, the aircraft did suffer a high number of accidents, with two of the aircraft, more than one quarter of the aircraft used in the wars, being lost. According to Australian press reports, the crashes were due to "technical failures or poor maintenance", with a failure rate per hour flown over 100 times higher than the F-16 fighters flown in the same wars. The manufacturer stated that it was unfair to compare the failure rates of a mature design to that of a prototype plane, and pointed to a lack of trained maintenance staff and spare parts.

[edit] Records

On March 21, 2001, aircraft number 982003, the third ACTD aircraft produced, set an official world endurance record for UAVs, at 30 hours, 24 minutes and 1 second, flying from Edwards.[26] During the same flight, it set an absolute altitude record of 19,928 meters (65,380.6 ft), which was later broken by the NASA Helios Prototype (although the absolute record was broken, the Global Hawk's record still stands in its FAI class category).[27]

On April 24, 2001 a Global Hawk flew non-stop from Edwards in the US to RAAF Base Edinburgh in Australia, making history by being the first pilotless aircraft to cross the Pacific Ocean. The flight took 22 hours, and set a world record for absolute distance flown by a UAV, 13,219.86 kilometers (8,214.44 mi).[28][29]

[edit] Incidents

On December 30, 2001 a Global Hawk crashed in Afghanistan.[30]

On July 10, 2002 a Global Hawk crashed in Pakistan due to an apparent engine failure.[31]

[edit] Variants

Initial production version for the USAF, 59 built.
Improved version with increased payload, wingspan increased to 130.9ft (39.8m) and length increased to 47.7ft (14.5m), due to the increased size and payload the range is reduced to 8,700nm [32]
For USN Broad Area Maritime Surveillance role.

[edit] Miniature variant

Scaled Composites and Northrop Grumman are also offering a 50% proportional shrink of the RQ-4A, currently known as the Model 396, as part of the USAF Hunter-Killer program.

[edit] Operators

United States

* United States Air Force
o Air Combat Command
+ 9th Reconnaissance Wing - Beale Air Force Base, California
# 1st Reconnaissance Squadron
# 12th Reconnaissance Squadron
+ 53rd Wing
# 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron - Edwards Air Force Base, California
o Air Force Reserve Command
+ 610th Regional Support Group
# 13th Reconnaissance Squadron - Beale Air Force Base, California
* United States Navy
o Dryden Flight Research Center

[edit] Specifications (RQ-4A)

General characteristics

* Crew: 0
* Length: 44 ft 5 in (13.5 m)
* Wingspan: 116 ft 2 in (35.4 m)
* Height: 15 ft 2 in (4.6 m)
* Empty weight: 8,490 lb (3,850 kg)
* Gross weight: 22,900 lb (10,400 kg)
* Powerplant: 1 × Allison Rolls-Royce AE3007H turbofan engine, 7,050 lbf (31.4 kN) each


* Cruise speed: 404 mph (650 km/h)
* Endurance: 36 hours
* Service ceiling: 65,000 ft (20,000 m)
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The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which the United States Air Force describes as a MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) UAV system. It can serve in a reconnaissance role and fire two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The aircraft, in use since 1995, has seen combat over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq, and Yemen. It is a remote-controlled aircraft.

The MQ-1 Predator is a system, not just an aircraft. The fully operational system consists of four air vehicles (with sensors), a ground control station (GCS), a Predator primary satellite link communication suite, and 55 people. In the over-all U.S. Air Force integrated UAV system the Predator is considered a "Tier II" vehicle.[2]

The Predator system was initially designated the RQ-1 Predator. The "R" is the Department of Defense designation for reconnaissance and the "Q" refers to an unmanned aircraft system.[3] The "1" describes it as being the first of a series of aircraft systems built for unmanned reconnaissance. Pre-production systems were designated as RQ-1A, while the RQ-1B (not to be confused with the RQ-1 Predator B, which became the MQ-9 Reaper) denotes the baseline production configuration. It should be emphasized that these are designations of the system as a unit. The actual aircraft themselves were designated RQ-1K for pre-production models, and RQ-1L for production models.[4] In 2005, the Air Force officially changed the designation to MQ-1 (the "M" designates multi-role) to reflect its growing use as an armed aircraft.[5]

As of 2009[update] the Air Force’s fleet stands at 195 Predators and 28 Reapers.[1]

More than one third of all deployed Predator spy planes have crashed. 55 were lost because of "equipment failure, operator errors or weather". Four of them were shot down in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq; 11 were lost in combat situations, such as "running out of fuel while protecting troops under fire.

At Paris Air Show 2007
A Predator flies on a simulated Navy aerial reconnaissance flight off the coast of southern California on Dec. 5, 1995.

The CIA and the Pentagon had each been experimenting with reconnaissance drones since the early 1980s. The CIA preferred small, lightweight, unobtrusive drones, in contrast to the USAF. In the early 1990s the agency became interested in the "Amber", a drone developed by Abraham Karem and his company, Leading Systems Inc.[4]. Karem was the former chief designer for the Israeli Air Force, and had migrated to the United States in the late 1970s. Karem's company had since gone bankrupt and been bought up by a US defense contractor. The CIA secretly bought five drones (now called the "Gnat") from them. Karem agreed to produce a quiet engine for the vehicle, which had until then sounded like "a lawnmower in the sky". The new development became known as the "Predator".[6]

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems was awarded a contract to develop the Predator in January 1994, and the initial Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) phase lasted from January 1994 to June 1996. The aircraft itself was a derivative of the GA Gnat 750 UAV. During the ACTD phase, three systems were purchased from GA, comprising twelve aircraft and three ground control stations.[7]

From April through May, 1995, the Predator ACTD aircraft were flown as a part of the Roving Sands 1995 exercises in the U.S. The exercise operations were successful, and this led to the decision to deploy the system to the Balkans later in the summer of 1995.[7]

Cost for an early production Predator was about $3.2 million USD.[4]

The CIA arranged for Air Force teams trained by the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, to fly the agency's Predators. "First in Bosnia and then in Kosovo, CIA officers began to see the first practical returns ..."[8]

By the time of the Afghan campaign, the Air Force had acquired 60 Predators, and lost 20 of them in action. Few if any of the losses were from enemy action, the worst problem apparently being foul weather, particularly icy conditions. Some critics within the Pentagon saw the high loss rate as a sign of poor operational procedures. In response to the losses caused by cold weather flight conditions, a few of the later Predators obtained by the USAF were fitted with deicing systems, along with an uprated turbocharged engine and improved avionics. This improved "Block 1" version was referred to as the "RQ-1B", or the "MQ-1B" if it carried munitions; the corresponding air vehicle designation was "RQ-1L" or "MQ-1L".

[edit] Command and sensor systems

During the campaign in the former Yugoslavia, a Predator's pilot would sit with several payload specialists in a van near the runway of the drone's operating base. (In its Balkan operation, the CIA secretly flew Predators out of Hungary and Albania.) Direct radio signals controlled the drone's takeoff and initial ascent. Then communications shifted to military satellite networks linked to the pilot's van. Pilots experienced a delay of several seconds between tugging their joysticks and the drone's response. But by 2000, improvements in communications systems [perhaps by use of the USAF's JSTARS system] now made it possible, at least in theory, to fly the drone remotely from great distances. It was no longer necessary to use close-up radio signals during the Predator's takeoff and ascent. The entire flight could be controlled by satellite from any command center with the right equipment. The CIA proposed to attempt over Afghanistan the first fully remote Predator flight operations, piloted from the agency's headquarters at Langley.[9]

The Predator air vehicle and sensors are controlled from the ground station 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 ground control station is a pilot and two sensor operators. The aircraft is equipped with the AN/AAS-52 Multi-spectral Targeting System,[10] a color nose camera (generally used by the pilot for flight control), a variable aperture day-TV camera, and a variable aperture infrared camera (for low light/night). Previously, Predators were equipped with a synthetic aperture radar for looking through smoke, clouds or haze, but lack of use validated its removal to reduce weight. The cameras produce full motion video and the synthetic aperture radar produced still frame radar images. There is sufficient bandwidth on the datalink for two video sources to be used at one time, but only one video source from the sensor ball can be used at any time due to design limitations. Either the daylight variable aperture or the infrared electro-optical sensor may be operated simultaneously with the synthetic aperture radar, if equipped.

All Predators are equipped with a laser designator that allows the pilot to identify targets for other aircraft and even provide the laser-guidance for manned aircraft. This laser is also the designator for the AGM-114 Hellfire that are carried on the MQ-1.

[edit] Deployment methodology
UAV Operators at Balad Camp Anaconda, Iraq, April 20, 2005.

Each Predator air vehicle can be disassembled into six main components and loaded into a container nicknamed "the coffin." This enables all system components and support equipment to be rapidly deployed worldwide. The largest component is the ground control station and it is designed to roll into a C-130 Hercules. The Predator primary satellite link consists of a 6.1 meter (20 ft) satellite dish and associated support equipment. The satellite link provides communications between the ground station and the aircraft when it is beyond line-of-sight and is a link to networks that disseminate secondary intelligence. The RQ-1A system needs 1,500 by 40 meters (5,000 by 125 ft) of hard surface runway with clear line-of-sight to each end from the ground control station to the air vehicles. Initially, all components needed be located on the same airfield.

Currently, the US Air Force uses a concept called "Remote-Split Operations" where the satellite datalink is located in a different location and is connected to the GCS through fiber optic cabling. This allows Predators to be launched and recovered by a small "Launch and Recovery Element" and then handed off to a "Mission Control Element" for the rest of the flight. This allows a smaller number of troops to be deployed to a forward location, and consolidates control of the different flights in one location.

The improvements in the MQ-1B production version include an ARC-210 radio, an APX-100 IFF/SIF with mode 4, a glycol-weeping “wet wings” ice mitigation system, up-graded turbo-charged engine, fuel injection, longer wings, dual alternators as well as other improvements.

On 18 May 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a certificate of authorization which will allow the M/RQ-1 and M/RQ-9 aircraft to be used within U.S. civilian airspace to search for survivors of disasters. Requests had been made in 2005 for the aircraft to be used in search and rescue operations following Hurricane Katrina, but because there was no FAA authorization in place at the time, the assets were not used. The Predator's infrared camera with digitally-enhanced zoom has the capability of identifying the heat signature of a human body from an altitude of 3 km (10,000 ft), making the aircraft an ideal search and rescue tool.[11]

The longest declassified Predator flight was 40 hours, 5 minutes.[12]

The total flight time has reached 400 thousand hours as of March 2009.[13].

[edit] Armed version development
MQ-1 Predator, with inert Hellfire missiles, on display at the 2006 Edwards Open House

The Air Force handed the Predator over to the service's Big Safari office after the Kosovo campaign in order to accelerate tests of the UAV in a strike role, fitted with reinforced wings and stores pylons to carry munitions, as well as a laser target designator. This effort led to a series of tests, on 21 February 2001, in which the Predator fired three Hellfire anti-armor missiles, scoring hits on a stationary tank with all three missiles. The scheme was put into service, with the armed Predators given the new designation of MQ-1A. Given that a Predator is very unobtrusive and the Hellfire is supersonic, such a combination gives little warning of attack.[4][14]

In the winter of 2000-2001, after seeing the results of Predator reconnaissance in Afghanistan (see below), Cofer Black, head of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center (CTC), became a "vocal advocate" of arming the Predator with missiles to target Osama bin Laden in the country. He also believed that CIA pressure and practical interest was causing the USAF's armed Predator program to be significantly accelerated. Black, and "Richard", who was in charge of the CTC's Bin Laden Issue Station, continued to press during 2001 for a Predator armed with Hellfire missiles.

Further weapons tests occurred between 22 May and 7 June 2001, with mixed results. While missile accuracy was excellent, there were some problems with missile fuzing ..." In the first week of June, in the Nevada Desert, a Hellfire missile was successfully launched on a replica of bin Laden's Afghanistan Tarnak residence. A missile launched from a Predator exploded inside one of the replica's rooms; it was concluded that any people in the room would have been killed. However, the armed Predator did not go into action before 9/11.[15]

The Air Force has also investigated using the Predator to drop battlefield ground sensors, and to carry and deploy the "Finder" mini-UAV.[4]

[edit] NASA and NPGS unarmed research versions

Two unarmed versions, known as the General Atomics ALTUS were built, ALTUS I for the Naval Postgraduate School and ALTUS II for the NASA ERAST Project in 1997 and 1996, respectively.

[edit] MQ-1C Warrior
Main article: MQ-1C Warrior

The U.S. Army selected the MQ-1C Warrior as the winner of the Extended-Range Multi-Purpose UAV competition August 2005, and the type is due to become operational in 2009.

[edit] Operational history
RQ-1A Predator

The total numbers of Predators in Air Force use as of March 2009 were 195 Predators and 28 Reapers. Predators and Reapers fired missiles 244 times in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008. A report in March 2009 indicated that U.S. Air Force had lost 70 Predators in air crashes during its operational history. Fifty-five were lost to equipment failure, operator error, or weather. Four have been shot down in Bosnia, Kosovo, or Iraq. Eleven more were lost to operational accidents on combat missions.[16]
[edit] Squadrons and operational units

During the initial ACTD phase, the United States Army led the evaluation program, but in April 1996, the Secretary of Defense selected the U.S. Air Force as the operating service for the RQ-1A Predator system. The 11th, 15th, and 17th Reconnaissance Squadrons, Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, and the Air National Guard's 163d Reconnaissance Wing at March Air Reserve Base, California, currently operate the MQ-1 (see below).

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Defense recommended retiring Ellington Field's 147th Fighter Wing's F-16 Falcon fighter jets (a total of 15 aircraft), which was approved by the Base Realignment and Closure committee. They will be replaced with 12 MQ-1 Predator UAVs, and the new unit should be fully equipped and outfitted by 2009.[17] The wing's combat support arm will remain intact. The 272nd Engineering Installation Squadron, an Air National Guard unit currently located off-base, will move into Ellington Field in its place.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is operating an unknown number of Predators.[18]

[edit] Balkans
A shot down RQ-1 Predator in a museum in Belgrade, Serbia

The first overseas deployment was to the Balkans, from July to November 1995, under the name Nomad Vigil. Operations were based in Gjader, Albania. Several Predators were lost during Nomad Vigil.

* One aircraft (serial 95-3017) was lost on 18 April 1999, following fuel system problems and icing.[19]
* A second aircraft (serial 95-3019) was lost on 13 May, when it was shot down by a Serbian Strela-1M surface-to-air missile over the village of Biba. A Serbian TV crew videotaped this incident.[20]
* A third aircraft (serial number 95-3021) crashed on 20 May near the town of Talinovci, and Serbian news reported that this, too, was the result of anti-aircraft fire.[20][21]

[edit] Afghanistan

In 2000 a joint CIA-Pentagon effort was agreed to locate Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Dubbed "Afghan Eyes", it involved a projected 60-day trial run of Predators over the country. The first experimental flight was held on 7 September 2000. White House security chief Richard A. Clarke was impressed by the resulting video footage; he hoped that the drones might eventually be used to target Bin Laden with cruise missiles or armed aircraft. Clarke's enthusiasm was matched by that of Cofer Black, head of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center (CTC), and Charles Allen, in charge of the CIA's intelligence-collection operations. The three men backed an immediate trial run of reconnaissance flights. Ten out of the ensuing 15 Predator missions over Afghanistan were rated successful. On at least two flights, a Predator spotted a tall man in white robes at bin Laden's Tarnak Farm compound outside Kandahar; the figure was subsequently deemed to be "probably bin Laden".[22]

"A large video screen loomed in the middle of the CIA's makeshift flight operations center. Air Force drone pilots and CIA officers from the Counterterrorist Center and the CTC's bin Laden unit huddled in the darkened room in the wooded Langley campus from midnight to dawn". But by mid-October, deteriorating weather conditions made it difficult for the Predator to fly from its base in Uzbekistan, and the run of flights was suspended.[23]

It was hoped to resume flights in spring 2001, but debates about the use of an armed Predator (see above) delayed a restart. Only on 4 September 2001 (after the Bush cabinet approved a Qaeda/Taliban plan) did CIA chief Tenet order the agency to resume reconnaissance flights. The Predators were now weapons-capable, but didn't carry missiles because the host country (presumably Uzbekistan) hadn't granted permission.

Subsequent to 9/11, approval was quickly granted to ship the missiles, and the Predator aircraft and missiles reached their overseas location on 16 September 2001. The first mission was flown over Kabul and Kandahar on 18 September without carrying weapons. Subsequent host nation approval was granted on 7 October and the first armed mission was flown on the same day.[24]

* On 4 February 2002, an armed Predator attacked a convoy of sport utility vehicles, killing a suspected al Qaeda leader. The intelligence community initially expressed doubt that he was Osama bin Laden.

* On 4 March 2002, a CIA-operated Predator fired a Hellfire missile into a reinforced al Qaeda machine gun bunker that had pinned down an Army Ranger team whose CH-47 Chinook had crashed on the top of Takur Ghar Mountain in Afghanistan. Previous attempts by flights of F-15 and F-16 aircraft were unable to destroy the bunker. This action took place during what has become known as the "Battle of Robert's Ridge", a part of Operation Anaconda. This appears to be the first use of such a weapon in a close air support role.[25]

[edit] Pakistan
Main article: Drone attacks in Pakistan by the United States

Since at least 2004, the US Central Intelligence Agency has allegedly been operating the drones out of Shamsi airfield in Pakistan to attack militants in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas.[26] [27]

* On 13 May 2005, Haitham al-Yemeni, an al Qaeda explosives expert from Yemen, was killed in a village in northwest Pakistan near the Afghanistan border by a CIA-operated MQ-1 Predator aircraft firing a Hellfire missile.[28]
* On 3 December 2005, a US Predator UAV reportedly killed high-level Al Qaeda member Chief Abu Hamza Rabia in his sleep in Haisori, Pakistan. Four others were also killed.[29]
* On 13 January 2006, several US Predators conducted an airstrike on Damadola village in Pakistan where al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri was reportedly located. CIA Predators reportedly fired 10 missiles killing 18 civilians, including five women and five children. According to Pakistani authorities, the U.S. strike was based on faulty intelligence and al-Zawahiri was not present in the village. Pakistani officials nevertheless claimed that Midhat Mursi (Abu Khabab al-Masri) — al Qaeda's master bomb maker and chemical weapons expert, Khalid Habib — the al Qaeda operations chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Abdul Rehman al Magrabi — a senior operations commander for al Qaeda were all killed in the Damadola attack.[30][31] U.S. and Pakistani officials now say that none of those al Qaeda leaders perished in the strike and that only local villagers were killed.[32]
* On 30 October 2006, the Bajaur airstrike was conducted, targeting an alleged militant training camp and targeting al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The strike hit a religious school where militants were believed to be present. Eyewitness reports said that two explosions were heard following a missile being fired from an MQ-1 Predator. Pakistani intelligence officials have told western media that Predators were used in the strike, which utilized Hellfire missiles. Although Zawahiri does not appear to have been caught in the strike, Pakistani officials have stated that between two and five senior al Qaeda fighters, including the mastermind of the airliners plot in the UK, were killed in the raid.[33] While some reports state that the school was a religious training center, Pakistani authorities, including President Musharraf, have stated that the school provided military training to al Qaeda militants. Casualty figures range from 80 to 85 people killed.[34]
* On 29 January 2008 an MQ-1B killed Abu Laith al-Libi in Mir Ali.
* Al-Qaeda chief dies in missile airstrike The Guardian 1 June 2008 see Damadola airstrike
* US Releases Video of Clash Along Pakistan VOA News 12 June 2008
* Pakistan Angry as Strike by U.S. Kills 11 Soldiers NY Times 12 June 2008
* U.S. Military Releases Video Footage of Airstrike in Pakistan Washington Post 12 June 2008
* CIA given green light to bomb Osama bin Laden [link] 2 July 2008
* First confrontation with Pakistani jets. An MQ-1 had to return to base after Pakistani jets were scrambled.[35]
* A UAV crash landed in the area of Angoor Adda, which has been an area of constant American activity. Local tribesmen have picked up the wreckage and handed over the security forces.[36] Pentagon has denied this.
* 'US drone' in fatal Pakistan raid AlJazeera 14 February 2009

[edit] Yemen
Main article: CIA activities in Yemen

* On 3 November 2002, a CIA Predator (being flown by an Air Force pilot from a French military base, Camp Lemonier, in Djibouti) was again used in a military strike. A Hellfire missile was fired at a car in Yemen, killing Qaed Senyan al-Harthi, an al-Qaeda leader thought to be responsible for the USS Cole bombing. It was the first direct US strike in the War on Terrorism outside Afghanistan.[28][37]
* Steve Scher on Weekday – February 23, 2007 KUOW-FM interviews James Bamford on the National Security Agency (Note: minutes 21–24 of 54 minute audio)

[edit] Iraq
An MQ-1B Predator unmanned aircraft from the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron takes off July 9 from Ali Base, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

* An Iraqi MiG-25 shot down a Predator performing reconnaissance over the no fly zone in Iraq on 23 December 2002, after the Predator fired a missile at it. This was the first time in history a conventional aircraft and a drone had engaged in combat. Predators had been armed with AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles, and were being used to "bait" Iraqi fighter planes, then run. In this incident, the Predator didn't run, but instead fired one of the Stingers. The Stinger's heat-seeker became "distracted" by the MiG's missile and so missed the MiG, and the Predator was destroyed.[38][39]
* During the initial phases of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, a number of older Predators were stripped down and used as decoys to entice Iraqi air defenses to expose themselves by firing.[4][38]
* From July 2005 to June 2006, the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron participated in more than 242 separate raids, engaged 132 troops in contact-force protection actions, fired 59 Hellfire missiles; surveyed 18,490 targets, escorted four convoys, and flew 2,073 sorties for more than 33,833 flying hours.[40]

[edit] Others

Since the end of 2004 it is also used by the Italian Air Force and since 2006 by the Royal Air Force. Two civil-registered unarmed MQ-1s have been operated by the Office of the National Security Advisor in the Philippines since 2006.[citation needed]

[edit] Operators


* Aeronautica Militare
o 32º Stormo — Foggia, Amendola Air Force Base
+ 28º Gruppo

United Kingdom

* Royal Air Force
o No. 1115 Flight RAF
o No. 39 Squadron RAF;[41]


* Turkish Air Force;[42] The Turkish Air Force has on order 6 MQ-1 Predators via the USA's Foreign Military Sales mechanism.

United States

* United States Air Force
o Air Combat Command
+ 432d Air Expeditionary Wing—Creech Air Force Base, Nevada
# 11th Reconnaissance Squadron
# 15th Reconnaissance Squadron
# 17th Reconnaissance Squadron
+ 53d Wing—Eglin AFB, Florida
# 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron—Creech Air Force Base, Nevada
o Air Force Special Operations Command
+ 1st Special Operations Wing
# 3d Special Operations Squadron—Creech Air Force Base, Nevada
o Air National Guard
+ Texas Air National Guard
# 147th Reconnaissance Wing—Ellington Field
* 111th Reconnaissance Squadron
+ California Air National Guard
# 163d Reconnaissance Wing—March Joint Air Reserve Base
* 196th Reconnaissance Squadron
* Central Intelligence Agency
* U.S. Customs and Border Protection

[edit] Specifications

General characteristics

* Crew: 2 (one pilot and one sensor operator)
* Length: 27 ft (8.22 m)
* Wingspan: 48.7 ft (14.8 m (dependent on block of aircraft))
* Height: 6.9 ft (2.1 m)
* Wing area: 123.3 sq ft[43] (11.5 m²;)
* Empty weight: 1,130 lb[44] (512 kg)
* Loaded weight: 2,250 lb (1,020 kg)
* Max takeoff weight: 2,250 lb[44] (1,020 kg)
* Powerplant: 1× Rotax 914F turbocharged Four-cylinder engine, 115 hp[44] (86 kW)


* Maximum speed: 135 mph (117 knots, 217 km/h)
* Cruise speed: 81–103 mph (70–90 knots, 130–165 km/h)
* Stall speed: 62 mph (54 knots (dependent on weight of aircraft), 100 km/h)
* Range: >2,000 nm[45] (3,704 km, 2,302 miles)
* Service ceiling: 25,000 ft [44] (7,620 m)


2 hard points

* 2 × AGM-114 Hellfire (MQ-1B)
* 2 × AIM-92 Stinger (unknown number) (MQ-1B)
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The MQ-9 Reaper (originally the Predator B) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) for use by the United States Air Force, the United States Navy, and the British Royal Air Force. The MQ-9 is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance.[4]

The MQ-9 is a larger and more capable aircraft than the earlier MQ-1 Predator. It can use MQ-1's ground systems. The MQ-9 has a 950-shaft-horsepower turboprop engine, far more powerful than the Predator's 115 hp (86 kW) piston engine. The increase in power allows the Reaper to carry 15 times more ordnance and cruise at three times the speed of the MQ-1.[4]

In 2008 the New York Air National Guard 174th Fighter Wing began to transition from F-16 piloted planes to MQ-9 Reaper drones, which are capable of remote controlled or autonomous flight, becoming the first all-robot attack squadron.[5][6][7]

Then U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General T. Michael Moseley said, "We've moved from using UAVs primarily in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance roles before Operation Iraqi Freedom, to a true hunter-killer role with the Reaper."[4]

As of 2009[update] the U.S. Air Force’s fleet stands at 195 Predators and 28 Reapers.[2]

Design and development

With the success of the MQ-1 in combat, General Atomics anticipated the Air Force's desire for an upgraded aircraft and, using its own funds, set about redesigning Predator.

Prototype "Predator B"

General Atomics began development of the Reaper with the "Predator B-001", a proof-of-concept aircraft, which first flew on 2 February 2001. The B-001 was powered by a Garrett AiResearch TPE-331-10T turboprop engine with 950 shp (712 kW). It had a standard Predator airframe, except that the wings were stretched from 48 feet (14.6 m) to 66 feet (20 m). The B-001 had a speed of 220 kts (390 km/h) and could carry a payload of 750 pounds (340 kilograms) to an altitude of 50,000 feet (15.2 kilometers) with an endurance of 30 hours.[8]

GA refined the design, taking it in two separate directions. The first was with a jet-powered version. The "Predator B-002" was fitted with a Williams FJ44-2A turbofan engine with 10.2 kN (2,300 lbf, 1,040 kgf) thrust. It had payload capacity of 475 pounds (215 kilograms), a ceiling of 60,000 feet (18.3 kilometers) and endurance of 12 hours. The U.S. Air Force has ordered two airframes for evaluation, delivered in 2007.[9]

The second was the "Predator B-003", referred to by GA as the "Altair", which has a new airframe with an 84-feet (25.6 m) wingspan and a takeoff weight of about 7,000 pounds (3,175 kilograms). Like the Predator B-001, it is powered by a TP-331-10T turboprop. This variant has a payload capacity of 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms), a maximum ceiling of 52,000 feet (15.8 kilometers), and an endurance of 36 hours.[10][11]

Air Force version
First MQ-9 arrives at Creech AFB, March 2007.

In October 2001, the US Air Force signed a contract with GA to purchase an initial pair of Predator B-003s for evaluation, with follow-up orders for production machines. The first test MQ-9s were delivered to the Air Force in 2002. The name "Altair" did not follow the aircraft into testing, with the Air Force continuing to refer to the system as "Predator B" until it was renamed Reaper ("Altair" instead became the designation for the unarmed NASA version); this is confusing, however, as the manufacturer uses the term to refer to the smaller B-001 prototype.[8]

Operators, stationed at bases such as Creech Air Force Base, near Las Vegas, can hunt for targets and observe terrain using a number of sensors, including a thermal camera. One estimate has the on-board camera able to read a license plate from two miles away.[12] An operator's command takes 1.2 seconds to reach the drone via a satellite link. The MQ-9 is fitted with six stores pylons. The inner stores pylons can carry a maximum of 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms) each and allow carriage of external fuel tanks. The mid-wing stores pylons can carry a maximum of 600 pounds (270 kilograms) each, while the outer stores pylons can carry a maximum of 200 pounds (90 kilograms) each. An MQ-9 with two 1,000 pound (450 kilogram) external fuel tanks and a thousand pounds of munitions has an endurance of 42 hours.[11] The Reaper has an endurance of 14 hours when fully loaded with munitions.[4] The MQ-9 carries a variety of weapons including the GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb, the AGM-114 Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles, the AIM-9 Sidewinder.[13] and recently, the GBU-38 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition). Tests are underway to allow for the addition of the AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missile . Air Force believes that the Predator B will give the service an improved "deadly persistence" capability, with the UAV flying over a combat area night and day waiting for a target to present itself. In this role an armed UAV neatly complements piloted strike aircraft. A piloted strike aircraft can be used to drop larger quantities of ordnance on a target while a cheaper UAV can be kept in operation almost continuously, with ground controllers working in shifts, carrying a lighter ordnance load to destroy targets.[11]

By October, 2007 the U.S. Air Force owned nine Reapers,[14] and was expected to decide whether to order full-rate production in 2009.[4] On 18 May 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a certificate of authorization that allows the MQ-1 and MQ-9 aircraft to fly in U.S. civilian airspace to search for survivors of disasters. Requests had been made in 2005 for the aircraft to be used in search and rescue operations following Hurricane Katrina but, because there was no FAA authorization in place at the time, the planes were not used.[15]

In September 2007, the MQ-9 deployed into Iraq at Balad, the largest U.S. air base in Iraq.[16] On 28 October 2007 the Air Force Times reported an MQ-9 had achieved its first "kill", firing a Hellfire missile against "Afghanistan insurgents in the Deh Rawood region of the mountainous Oruzgan province. The strike was 'successful'," the United States Central Command Air Forces said.[17]

Critics have stated that the USAF's insistence on qualified pilots flying UAVs is a bottleneck to expanding their deployment. Air Force Major General William Rew stated on 5 August 2008, "For the way we fly them right now"—fully integrated into air operations and often flying missions alongside manned aircraft—"we want pilots to fly them."[18] This may be exacerbating losses of Air Force aircraft, in comparison with US Army operations.[19]
An MQ-9 taking off in Afghanistan

The typical MQ-9 system consists of multiple aircraft, ground control station, communications equipment and links, maintenance spares, and military (or contractor) personnel. The crew consists of a pilot and sensor operator. To meet combat requirements, the MQ-9 tailors its capabilities using mission kits of various combinations of weapons and sensors payloads. The Raytheon AN/AAS-52 multi-spectral targeting sensor suite includes a color/monochrome daylight TV, infrared, and image-intensified TV with laser rangefinder/target designator to designate targets for laser guided munitions. The Synthetic Aperture Radar system enables GBU-38 JDAM targeting, is capable of very fine resolution in both spotlight and strip modes, and has ground moving target indicator capability.

[edit] Navy version

General Atomics designed a naval version of the Reaper, named the "Mariner", for the U.S. Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) program requirements. The design would have an increased fuel capacity in order to have an endurance of up to 49 hours.[20] Proposed variations on the ultimate design included one designed for carrier operations with folding wings for carrier storage, shorter and more rugged landing gear, an arresting hook, cut-down or eliminated ventral flight surfaces and six stores pylons with a total load of 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms).[11] The Northrop Grumman RQ-4N was announced the BAMS winner.

The US Customs and Border Protection has ordered a "Maritime Variant" of the MQ-9.[21]

[edit] NASA version
NASA version Altair
NASA version Ikhana

NASA had initially expressed some interest in a production version of the B-002 turbofan-powered variant,[11] but instead has leased an unarmed version of the Reaper, which carries the GA-ASI company name "Altair". Altair is one of the first 3 "Predator-B" airframes. The other 2 airframes, known as "Predator-B 001" and "Predator-B 002", had a maximum gross weight of 7,500 pounds. Altair differs from these models in that it has an 86-foot (26 m) long wingspan (20 feet greater than early and current MQ-9's). The Altair has enhanced avionics systems to better enable it to fly in FAA-controlled civil airspace and demonstrate "over-the-horizon" command and control capability from a ground station. These aircraft are used by NASA's Earth Science Enterprise as part of the NASA ERAST Program to perform on-location science missions.[22]

In November 2006, NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center obtained an MQ-9 from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.. The aircraft has been named Ikhana and its main goal is the Suborbital Science Program within the Science Mission Directorate. NASA also acquired a ground control station in a mobile trailer.[23] This aircraft was used extensively to survey the Southern California wildfires in 2007. The data was used to deploy firefighters to areas of the highest need.

Homeland Security version
An MQ-9 of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.
UAV Operators at Balad Camp Anaconda, Iraq, April 20, 2005.

The United States Department of Homeland Security initially ordered one Predator B for border patrol duty, referred to as MQ-9 CBP-101. It began operations 4 October 2005, but on 25 April 2006, this aircraft crashed in the Arizona desert. The NTSB determined (Record Identification: CHI06MA121[24]) that the cause of the crash was most likely a pilot error by the aircraft's ground-based pilot in the use of a checklist. During its operational period, the aircraft flew 959 hours on patrol and had a part in 2,309 arrests. It also contributed to the seizure of four vehicles and 8,267 pounds of marijuana.[25] Because of these successes, a second Predator B, called "CBP-104" (initially referred to as "CBP-102"), was delivered in September 2006, and commenced limited border protection operations on 18 October 2006. The program was further expanded on 16 February 2009, including Canadian border patrols where US officials were concerned about the explotation of the border by "drug smugglers, migrants and terrorists"[26].

The CBP-101 was equipped with the Lynx SAR, AX-15 payload, ARC-210 radios, and other sensors and communications equipment; CBP-104 was enhanced with Ku band satellite command and control link and MTS-A EO/IR sensors.[25]

The President’s FY 2006 Emergency Supplemental budget request added $45 million for the Predator B program, and the FY 2007 Homeland Security Appropriations bill adds an additional $20 million. In October 2006, GA-ASI announced a $33.9 million contract to supply two more Predator B systems by Fall 2007.[27]

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has Six [28]operational MQ-9s. One based in North Dakota, at the UAS Operations Center in Grand Forks, four in Arizona, at the UAS Operations Center in Sierra Vista and one based at Fort Drum, N.Y.[3] The aircraft are equipped with GA-ASI's Lynx Synthetic Aperture Radar (Lynx SAR info/web page) and Raytheon's MTS-B ElectroOptical/Infrared sensors.[29]

[edit] International versions


In September 2006, the General Atomics Mariner demonstrator aircraft was operated by the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) in an exercise designed to evaluate the aircraft's ability to aid in efforts to stem illegal fishing, drug running and illegal immigration. The Mariner operated from RAAF bases Edinburgh, South Australia and Learmonth, Western Australia in conjunction with a Royal Australian Navy Armidale class patrol boat, the Joint Offshore Protection Command and the Pilbara Regiment.[30]

United Kingdom

On 27 September 2006, the U.S. Congress was notified by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency that the United Kingdom was seeking to purchase a pair of MQ-9 Reapers. They are operated by No. 39 Squadron RAF out of Creech Air Force Base, Nevada.[31] A third MQ-9 is in the process of being purchased by the RAF.[31]

On 9 November 2007, the UK Ministry of Defence announced that its MQ-9 Reapers had begun operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban.[32] On 4 January 2008 it became public that the United Kingdom wants to purchase a further 10 MQ-9 Reapers, giving the Royal Air Force a total fleet of 13 Reaper UAVs.[33]

In April 2008, British special forces were forced to destroy one of the two Reapers operating in Afghanistan to prevent sensitive material falling into the hands of the Taliban after it crash landed.[34]

[edit] Germany

Germany has made a request to purchase five Reapers and four ground control stations, plus related support material and training. The request, being made through the Foreign Military Sales process, was presented to Congress through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency on 1 August 2008 and is valued at US$205 million.[35][36]


On August 1, 2008, Italy submitted a FMS request through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency for four aircraft, four ground stations and five years of maintenance support, all valued at US$330 million.[35][37]

Operational history
This article may contain an inappropriate mixture of prose and timeline. Please help convert this timeline into prose or, if necessary, a list.

* The California Office of Emergency Services requested NASA support for the Esperanza Fire, and in under 24 hours the General Atomics Altair (NASA variant of the Predator B) was launched on a 16 hour mission to map the perimeter of the fire. The Altair had just returned from a test mission a day before the Esperanza Fire started. The fire mapping research is a joint project with NASA and the US Forest Service.[38][39]
* On 25 April 2006, an MQ-9 operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection crashed near Nogales, Arizona. The pilot, remotely operating the vehicle from Sierra Vista Municipal Airport, reported a momentary lockup of the displays on the primary control console. The pilot switched control to a secondary console, and in doing so inadvertently shut down the vehicle's engine, causing it to descend out of reach of communications and ultimately crash.[24][40]
* On 1 May 2007, the 432d Wing of the United States Air Force was activated to operate MQ-9 Reaper as well as MQ-1 Predator UAVs at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The pilots first flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan in the summer of 2007.[41]

* As of October 2007 the USAF is flying operational missions in Afghanistan.[14] As of 6 March 2008, according to USAF Lieutenant General Gary North, the Reaper has attacked 16 targets in Afghanistan using 500-lb bombs and Hellfire missiles. On 4 February 2008 the Reaper dropped a bomb on a truck carrying an insurgent mortar and team near Kandahar.[42]

* On July 17, 2008, the Air Force began flying Reaper missions within Iraq from Balad Air Base.[43][44]

* It was reported on August 11, 2008 that the 174th Fighter Wing of the USAF will consist entirely of Reapers.[45]

* By March 2009 the Air Force had 28 operational Reapers.[2]


* Aeronautica Militare[46]


* Turkish Air Force (Turkey initially ordered 4 aircraft and 3 command centers)[47]

United Kingdom

* Royal Air Force
o No. 39 Squadron RAF[48]

United States

* United States Air Force
o Air Combat Command
+ 432d Air Expeditionary Wing - Creech Air Force Base, Nevada
# 30th Reconnaissance Squadron - Tonopah Test Range Airport
# 19th Attack Squadron
# 42d Attack Squadron
o Air Force Materiel Command
# 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron - Creech Air Force Base, Nevada
o Air Force Special Operations Command
+ 1st Special Operations Wing
# 3d Special Operations Squadron - Creech Air Force Base, Nevada
o Air National Guard
+ 174th Fighter Wing - Hancock Field, New York
* U.S. Customs and Border Protection
o Sierra Vista, Arizona
o Grand Forks, North Dakota


Several minor variations of the RQ-9/MQ-9 exist; these values are indicative.


* Contractor: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Incorporated
* Crew(remote): 2 (Pilot plus a sensor operator)[49]
* Landing Type: runway
* Launch Type: runway
* Power Plant: Honeywell TP331-10T turboprop engine, 950 SHP (712 kW)
* Fuel Capacity: 1815 kg (4,000 lb)
* Length: 10.9728 m (36 ft)
* Wingspan: 20.1168 m (66 ft)
* Height: 3.8 m (12.5 ft)
* Empty weight: 2223 kg (4,900 lb)
* Max takeoff weight: 4760 kg (10,500 lb)[50]


* Service ceiling: 15 km (50,000 ft)
* Operational altitude: 7.5 km (25,000 ft) [51]
* Endurance: 14–28 hours (14 hours fully loaded) [52]
* Range: 5,926 km (3,200 nmi, 3,682 mi)
* Payload: 3,800 lb (1,700 kg)
o Internal: 800 lb (360 kg)
o External: 3,000 lb (1,400 kg)
* Maximum speed: 482 km/h (300 mph, 260 knots)
* Cruise speed: 276-313 km/h (172-195 mph, 150-170 knots) [53]


* AN/APY-8 Lynx II radar[54]
* AN/DAS-1 MTS-B Multi-Spectral Targeting System [55]


* 6 Hardpoints
o 1,500 lb (680 kg) on the two inboard weapons stations
o 500–600 lb (230–270 kg) on the two middle stations
o 150–200 lb (68–91 kg) on the outboard stations

* Up to 14x AGM-114 Hellfire air to ground missiles can be carried or four Hellfire missiles and two 500 lb (230 kg) GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs. The 500 lb (230 kg) GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) can also be carried. Testing is underway to support the operation of the AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missile.
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X-47 Pegasus UCAV-N

X-47A X-47B
Length 8.50 m (27.9 ft) 11.6 m (38.2 ft)
Wingspan 8.47 m (27.8 ft) 18.9 m (62.1 ft)
Weight (gross) 2500 kg (5500 lb) 19000 kg (42000 lb)
Payload 4,500 lb (2,045 kg) Internal
Speed Subsonic High subsonic
Ceiling ? 30,000+ ft (+ 9.2 km)
12200 m (40000 ft)
Ferry Range ? 6500 km (3500 nm)
Combat Radius ? 1,500+ nm Strike
Propulsion Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5C turbofan; 14.2 kN (3190 lb) Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220E turbofan; 105.7 kN (23770 lb)
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The A-10 Thunderbolt II is an American single-seat, twin-engine jet aircraft developed by Fairchild-Republic for the United States Air Force to provide close air support (CAS) of ground forces by attacking tanks, armored vehicles, and other ground targets, also providing a limited air interdiction role. It is the first U.S. Air Force aircraft designed exclusively for close air support.

The A-10's official name comes from the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt of World War II, a fighter that was particularly effective at close air support. However, the A-10 is more commonly known by its nickname "Warthog" or simply "Hog".[3] As a secondary mission, it provides airborne forward air control, guiding other aircraft against ground targets. A-10s used primarily in this role are designated OA-10.


Criticism that the U.S. Air Force did not take close air support seriously prompted a few service members to seek a specialized attack aircraft.[5] In the Vietnam War, large numbers of ground-attack aircraft were shot down by small arms, surface-to-air missiles, and low-level anti-aircraft gunfire, prompting the development of an aircraft better able to survive such weapons. In addition, the UH-1 Huey and AH-1 Cobra helicopters of the day, which USAF commanders had said should handle close air support, were ill-suited for use against armor, carrying only anti-personnel machine guns and unguided rockets meant for soft targets. The F-4 Phantom was pressed into close air support, but usually in emergencies, as its high cruising speed and fuel consumption hindered its ability to loiter, and the lack of a gun on most F-4 variants coupled with the relative ineffectiveness of the standard 20mm Vulcan round against hard targets made strafing runs either ineffective or impossible.

On 6 March 1967, the U.S. Air Force released a request for information to 21 companies. Their objective was to create a design study for a low-cost attack aircraft designated A-X, or "Attack Experimental". The officer in charge of the project was Col. Avery Kay.[5] In 1969, the Secretary of the Air Force asked Pierre Sprey to write the detailed specifications for the proposed A-X project. However, his initial involvement was kept secret due to Sprey's earlier controversial involvement in the F-X project.[5] Sprey's discussions with A-1 Skyraider pilots operating in Vietnam and analysis of the effectiveness of current aircraft used in the role indicated the ideal aircraft should have long loiter time, low-speed maneuverability, massive cannon firepower, and extreme survivability.[5]: an aircraft that had the best elements of the Ilyushin Il-2, Henschel Hs 129 and A-1 Skyraider. The specifications also demanded that the aircraft cost less than $3 million.[5] In May 1970, the USAF issued a modified, and much more detailed request for proposals, as the threat of Soviet armored forces and all-weather attack operations became more serious. Six companies submitted proposals to the USAF, with Northrop and Fairchild Republic selected to build prototypes: the YA-9A and YA-10A, respectively.
USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II from 1975
USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II from 1975

The YA-10A first flew on 10 May 1972. After trials and a fly-off against the YA-9A, the Air Force selected Fairchild-Republic's YA-10A on 10 January 1973 for production. (There was an additional fly-off against the A-7D Corsair II, the Air Force attack aircraft at the time, to prove the need to purchase a new aircraft) The first production A-10 flew in October 1975, and deliveries to the Air Force commenced in March 1976, to units at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. The first squadron to use the A-10 went operational in October 1977. In total, 715 airplanes were produced, the last in 1984.[6]

One experimental two-seat A-10 Night Adverse Weather (N/AW) version was built by converting an A-10A.[7] The Night Adverse Weather (N/AW) aircraft was developed by Fairchild from the first Demonstration Testing and Evaluation (DT&E) A-10 for consideration by the USAF. It included a second seat for a weapons officer responsible for ECM, navigation, and target acquisition. The variant was canceled and the only two-seat A-10 built now sits at Edwards Air Force Base awaiting a spot in the Flight Test Historical Foundation museum.[8] The proposed two-seat A-10 trainer aircraft did not go into production, as it was felt that the A-10 was simple enough to fly that a trainer version would not be required.

The decision to make the 30 mm GAU-8 gun the main anti-tank weapon of the A-10 was influenced by Vietnam A-1 pilots and by Hans-Ulrich Rudel and his book, "Stuka Pilot". In World War II, Rudel flew the Ju 87G Stuka and destroyed many tanks using its two underwing 37 mm guns. His book was required reading for members on the A-X project. The JU-87G was an outmoded airframe with ersatz anti-tank weapons attached, yet still inflicted impressive casualties on Soviet tank forces.
USAF A-10A Thunderbolt II.
USAF A-10A Thunderbolt II.

A-10s were initially an unwelcome addition to the arsenal in the eyes of Air Force brass. The Air Force prized the high-flying, high-performance F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon air-superiority jets, and were determined to leave the dirty work of close air support to Army helicopters (the development of the AGM-114 Hellfire anti-armor missile and AH-64 Apache attack helicopter having since provided the Army with a viable anti-tank aircraft). Attempts to transfer the A-10 to the Army and the Marines were at first prevented by the 1948 Key West Agreement, and then by the A-10's impressive combat record during the Gulf War in 1991. Shortly after the war, the Air Force gave up on the idea of replacing the A-10 with a close air support version of the F-16.[9]

[edit] Upgrades

The A-10 has received many upgrades over the years. Aircraft were upgraded with inertial navigation and a Pave Penny laser sensor (marked target seeker) pod that allowed the pilot to detect laser energy for PID (Positive Identification) of an illuminated target. The Pave Penny is a passive seeker and cannot self-designate a target for a Laser Guided Bomb (LGB). Later, the Low-Altitude Safety and Targeting Enhancement (LASTE) upgrade provided computerized weapon-aiming equipment, an autopilot, and ground-collision warning system. The A-10 is now compatible with night-vision goggles for low-light operation. In 1999, aircraft began to receive Global Positioning System navigation systems.

The A-10 is scheduled to stay in service with the USAF until 2028.[10] In 2005, the entire A-10 fleet began receiving upgrades to the "C" model that will include improved fire control system (FCS), electronic countermeasures (ECM), and the ability to carry smart bombs. The A-10 will be part of a service life extension program (SLEP) with many receiving new wings.[10] A contract to build 242 new A-10 wing sets was awarded to Boeing on 29 June 2007.[11] Modifications to provide precision weapons capability are well underway. Hill AFB has completed work on its 100th A-10 precision engagement upgrade in January 2008.[12] The C model upgrades are to be completed in 2011.[13]

[edit] Design
An A-10 entering a knife-edge pass.
An A-10 entering a knife-edge pass.

The A-10 has superior maneuverability at low speeds and altitude, thanks to straight, wide wings with downturned "droop" wing tips. These also allow short takeoffs and landings, permitting operations from rugged, forward airfields near front lines. The aircraft can loiter for extended periods of time and operate under 1,000 feet (300 m) ceilings with 1.5-mile (2.4 km) visibility. It typically flies at a relatively slow speed of 300 knots (345 mph or 555 km/h), which makes it a much better candidate for the ground-attack role than fast fighter-bombers, which often have difficulty targeting small and slow-moving targets.

Engine exhaust passes over the aircraft's horizontal stabilizer and between the twin tails, decreasing the A-10's infrared signature and lowering the likelihood that the aircraft can be targeted by heatseeking missiles. The placement of the engines partially shields them from anti-aircraft fire behind the wings and tail.

The A-10 has integrally machined skin panels. Because the stringers are integral with the skin there are no join or seal problems. These panels, fabricated using computer controlled machining, reduce the man-hours and hence the cost of manufacture. The tests of war have shown that this type of panel is more battle-hardy. The skin is not load-bearing, so damaged skin sections can be easily replaced in the field, with makeshift materials if necessary.[14]

Most thin flat areas of the airframe are honeycomb panels. This is because thin honeycomb sandwich panels are less likely to deform in any direction than sheet metal panels even if part of the panel has been blown off or structurally compromised. Honeycomb panels of this type on the A-10 include the flap shrouds, the elevators, the rudders and other sections of the fins. The leading edge of the mainplane is honeycomb to provide strength with minimal weight compromise.

The ailerons are at the far ends of the wings to gain greater rolling moment as with most aircraft but there are two distinguishing features. First, the ailerons are larger than is typical, almost 50% of the chord, providing improved control even at slow speeds. The aileron is also split, making it a deceleron.

The Thunderbolt II can be serviced and operated from bases with limited facilities near battle areas. An unusual feature is that many of the aircraft's parts are interchangeable between the left and right sides, including the engines, main landing gear, and vertical stabilizers. The sturdy landing gear, low-pressure tires and large, straight wings allow operation from short rough strips even with a heavy ordnance load, allowing the aircraft to operate from damaged airbases. The aircraft is designed to be refueled, rearmed and serviced with minimal equipment. Operating from a forward area is both useful for close air support and necessary due to the A-10's relatively low cruise and top speeds.

Because of the close proximity of the front landing gear and the A-10's main cannon, the landing gear is offset to the aircraft's right and cannon slightly to the left (see schematic below). The offset front landing gear causes the A-10 to have dissimilar turning radii. Turning to the right on the ground takes less space than turning left.[15]

[edit] Durability
This A-10 Thunderbolt II suffered extensive damage over Baghdad but still made it back to base.
This A-10 Thunderbolt II suffered extensive damage over Baghdad but still made it back to base.

The A-10 is exceptionally hardy. Its strong airframe can survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high-explosive projectiles up to 23 mm. The aircraft has triple redundancy in its flight systems, with mechanical systems to back up double-redundant hydraulic systems. This permits pilots to fly and land when hydraulic power or part of a wing is lost. Flight without hydraulic power uses the manual reversion flight control system; this engages automatically for pitch and yaw control, and under pilot control (manual reversion switch) for roll control. In manual reversion mode, the A-10 is sufficiently controllable under favorable conditions to return to base and land, though control forces are much higher than normal. The aircraft is designed to fly with one engine, one tail, one elevator and half a wing torn off.[16] Self-sealing fuel tanks are protected by fire-retardant foam. Additionally, the main landing gear is designed so that the wheels semi-protrude from their nacelles when the gear is retracted so as to make gear-up landings (belly landing) easier to control and less damaging to the aircraft's underside. They also are all hinged toward the rear of the aircraft, so if hydraulic power is lost the pilot can simply drop the gear and a combination of gravity and wind resistance will open and lock the gear in place.
An A-10 after a gear-up landing at Edwards AFB
An A-10 after a gear-up landing at Edwards AFB

The cockpit and parts of the flight-control system are protected by 900 pounds (408 kg) of titanium armor, referred to as a "titanium bathtub". The tub has been tested to withstand multiple strikes from 20 mm cannon fire. The thickness of the titanium varies from ½ an inch to 1½ inches determined by a study of likely trajectories and deflection angles. This protection comes at a cost, though; the armor plating itself weighs almost 6% of the entire aircraft’s empty weight. To protect the pilot from the fragmentation likely to be created from impact of a shell any interior surface of the tub that is directly exposed to the pilot is covered by a multi-layer Kevlar spall shield. The canopy consists of a bullet-proof diffusion-bonded stretched-acrylic to withstand small arms fire and is resistant to spalling. The front windscreen offers shielding resistant to 20 mm cannon fire.

Recent proof of the durability of the A-10 was shown when USAF Captain Kim Campbell, flying a ground support mission over Baghdad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq suffered extensive flak damage to her A-10. The hit damaged one of the A-10's two engines and crippled its hydraulic system, forcing the back-up mechanical system to operate the aircraft's stabilizer and flight controls. Despite this, the pilot managed to fly it for an hour and landed it safely at the air base in manual reversion mode.

[edit] Powerplant
USAF Thunderbolt taxiing
USAF Thunderbolt taxiing

There are several reasons for the unusual location of the A-10's General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofan engines. First, the A-10 was expected to fly from forward air bases, often with semi-prepared substandard runways that presented a high risk of foreign object damage to the engines. The height of the engines lowers the chance that sand or stones will enter the inlet. This also allows engines to remain running, allowing for shorter servicing and rearming turn-around times by ground crew. Servicing and rearming are further helped by having wings closer to the ground than would be possible if the engines were wing-mounted. The position also reduces the IR signature, which starts low anyway due to the engines' 6:1 bypass ratio. Because of their high position, the engines are angled upward nine degrees to bring the combined thrust line closer to the aerodynamic center of the aircraft. This avoids trimming measures to counteract a nose-down pitching moment if the engines were parallel to the fuselage. The heavy engines require strong supports, so their pylons are connected to the airframe by four bolts.[17]

All four fuel tanks are near the center of the aircraft, reducing the likelihood that they will be hit or separated from the engines. The tanks are protected by several measures. The tanks are separate from the fuselage and so projectiles would need to penetrate the skin before reaching the tank. The refueling system is purged after use so that there is no fuel unprotected anywhere in the aircraft. All pipes self-seal if they are compromised. Most of the fuel system components are inside the tanks so that if a leak were to occur from the component the fuel would not be lost. If a tank does get damaged, check valves ensure that fuel does not flow into the compromised tank. Most importantly, reticulated polyurethane foam lines both the inner and outer sides of the fuel tanks, holding debris and restricting fuel spillage in the event of damage. The other source of possible combustion, the engines, are shielded from the fuel system and the rest of the airframe by firewalls and fire extinguishing equipment.

[edit] Weapon systems
The A-10's GAU-8 Avenger gun
The A-10's GAU-8 Avenger gun

Although the A-10 can carry considerable disposable stores, its primary built-in weapon is the 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun. One of the most powerful aircraft cannons ever flown, it fires large depleted uranium armor-piercing shells. In the original design, the pilot could switch between two rates of fire: 2,100 or 4,200 rounds per minute.[18] This was changed to a fixed rate of 3,900 rounds per minute.[19] The cannon takes about half a second to come up to speed, so 50 rounds are fired during the first second, 65 or 70 rounds per second thereafter. The gun is accurate; it can place 80% of its shots within a 40-foot (12.4 meter) circle from 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) while in flight.[20] The GAU-8 is optimized for a slant range of 4,000 feet (1,220 m) with the A-10 in a 30 degree dive.[21]
Another view of the A-10's GAU-8 installation.
Another view of the A-10's GAU-8 installation.

The fuselage of the aircraft is built around the gun.[22] For example, the nose wheel is offset to the right so that the gun's firing barrel at the 9 o'clock position is aligned on the aircraft's centerline. The early A-10s carried 1,350 rounds of 30 mm ammunition, but it was replaced by a 1,174 round drum[21] whose helix was less susceptible to damage during loading.[citation needed] The 1,174-round drums were beefed up. The damage caused by a portion of those rounds firing prematurely due to impact of an explosive shell would be catastrophic. It is for this reason that a great deal of effort has been taken to protect the 5 ft (1.52 m) wide, 9 ft (2.74 m) long drum. There are many plates of differing thicknesses between the skin and the drum. These plates are called trigger plates because when an explosive shell hits a target it first penetrates its armor, then detonates. As the drum has many layers of thin armor, the shell's detonation is triggered before reaching the drum. A final layer of armor around the drum itself protects it from fragmentation damage. The gun is loaded by Syn-Tech's linked tube carrier GFU-7/E 30 mm ammunition loading assembly cart. This vehicle is unique to the A-10 and the GAU-8.
A-10 Thunderbolt II fully loaded.
A-10 Thunderbolt II fully loaded.

Another commonly used weapon is the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile, with different variations for either electro-optical (TV-guided) or infra-red targeting. The Maverick allows targets to be engaged at much greater ranges than the cannon, a safer proposition in the face of modern anti-aircraft systems. During Desert Storm, in the absence of dedicated forward-looking infrared cameras, the Maverick's infra-red camera was used for night missions as a "poor man's FLIR". Other weapons include cluster bombs and Hydra rocket pods. Although the A-10 is equipped to deliver laser-guided bombs, their use is relatively uncommon; at the low altitudes and speeds of typical A-10 operations, standard unguided bombs provide adequate accuracy at far lower cost. In any event, the guided weapons would provide little benefit, as there would be nearly no time for the weapons to steer onto a target. A-10s usually fly with an ALQ-131 ECM pod under one wing and two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles under the other for self-defense.

[edit] Modernization

The A-10 Precision Engagement Modification Program is an estimated US$420 million program that will see 356 A-10s upgraded with a new flight computer, new glass cockpit displays and controls, two new 5.5 inch color displays with moving map function and an integrated digital stores management system. A second DC generator will be installed to provide the additional power these systems consume.[citation needed]

Other funded improvements to the A-10 fleet include a new data link, the ability to employ smart weapons such as the JDAM and Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensor, and the ability to carry an integrated targeting pod such as the Northrop Grumman LITENING or Lockheed-Martin Sniper XR Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP). Also included is the ROVER or remotely operated video enhanced receiver to provide sensor data to personnel on the ground.[13]

Structural improvements will feature an all new wing for the 242 A-10s that were originally built with "thin skin" wings.[13] Long lead funding has also been provided for an improved higher thrust engine.

On 2 April 2007 the Government Accounting Office estimated the potential total cost of upgrading, refurbishing, and service life extension plans for the A-10 force at up to $4.4 billion.[23]

[edit] Operational history
A-10 Thunderbolt II firing off an AGM-65 on one of the Eglin AFB weapons ranges.
A-10 Thunderbolt II firing off an AGM-65 on one of the Eglin AFB weapons ranges.

The first unit to receive the A-10 Thunderbolt II was the 355th Tactical Training Wing, based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona in March 1976. The first unit to achieve full combat-readiness was the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing at Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina in 1978. Deployments of A-10As followed at bases both at home and abroad, including England AFB, Louisiana, Eielson AFB, Alaska, Osan Air Base, Korea, and RAF Bentwaters/RAF Woodbridge, England.[citation needed] The 81st TFW of RAF Bentwaters/RAF Woodbridge operated rotating detachments of A-10s at four bases in Germany known as Forward Operating Locations (FOLs): Leipheim, Sembach Air Base, Nörvenich, and Ahlhorn.[citation needed]

The A-10 saw combat for the first time during the Gulf War in 1991, destroying more than 1,000 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 military vehicles, and 1,200 artillery pieces. A-10s shot down two Iraqi helicopters with the GAU-8 gun.[6] Seven A-10s were shot down during the war.[24] A-10s had a mission capable rate of 95.7%, flew 8,100 sorties, and launched 90% of the AGM-65 Maverick missiles fired in the conflict.[25] Part of the reason for this success were the burning oil wells that provided Iraqi tanks some cover from advanced electronics and high-flying fighters like the F-15 and F-16, where the trained eye, longer gun range and stable gun platform of the A-10 proved its worth.[citation needed]

In the 1990s many A-10s were shifted to the forward air control (FAC) role and redesignated OA-10. In the FAC role the A-10 is typically equipped with up to six pods of 2.75 inch (70 mm) Hydra rockets, usually with smoke or white phosphorus warheads used for target marking. OA-10s remain fully combat capable despite the redesignation.
USAF A-10A during Desert Storm
USAF A-10A during Desert Storm

A-10s again saw service in the 1999 Kosovo War, in the later stages of the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in March 2002 and in the 2003 Iraq war. In Afghanistan the A-10 is based at Bagram.

On 30 April 2003, USCENTAF issued Operation Iraqi Freedom: By the Numbers, a declassified report about the aerial campaign in the conflict. Sixty A-10s were deployed in Iraq; one was shot down near Baghdad International Airport by Iraqi fire late in the campaign. Of the A-10s deployed, 47 were Air National Guard Aircraft, and 12 were from the Air Force Reserve. The A-10 had a mission capable rate of 85% in the war, and fired 311,597 rounds of 30 mm ammunition. The A-10 also flew 32 missions in which the aircraft dropped propaganda leaflets over Iraq.[26]
A new A-10C arrives at Davis-Monthan AFB, 29 November 2006
A new A-10C arrives at Davis-Monthan AFB, 29 November 2006

The A-10C first deployed to Iraq in the third quarter of 2007 with the 104th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. The jets include the Precision Engagement Upgrade.[27]

The A-10 is scheduled to stay in service with the USAF until 2028 and possibly later,[28] when it may be replaced by the F-35 Lightning II.[10] The entire A-10 fleet is currently undergoing upgrades. The A-10 could stay in service longer due to its low cost and its unique capabilities — such as its cannon, ruggedness and slow flying capabilities.

[edit] Variants

The first two prototypes.
Single-seat close air support, ground-attack version.
Single-seat forward air control version.
YA-10B Night/Adverse Weather
Two-seat experimental prototype, for work at night and in bad weather. Later redesignated YA-10B. Only one example was built, which is now on static display.
A-10As updated under the incremental Precision Engagement (PE) program featuring a new glass cockpit (including digital moving map displays), advanced datalink, and all-weather multi-mission precision weapons and laser targeting capability.[29]

[edit] Operators
An A-10 Thunderbolt II banks left after refueling.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II banks left after refueling.

The A-10 has been flown exclusively by the United States Air Force and its Air Reserve Components, the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and the Air National Guard (ANG). As of March 2008, 20 squadrons operate the A-10 or its OA-10 variant (nine USAF, six ANG, and five AFRC).

United States Air Force

* 23d Wing - Moody Air Force Base, Georgia
o 74th Fighter Squadron
o 75th Fighter Squadron
* 51st Fighter Wing - Osan AB, South Korea
o 25th Fighter Squadron
* 52d Fighter Wing - Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany
o 81st Fighter Squadron
* 53d Wing - Eglin AFB, Florida
o 422d Test and Evaluation Squadron (Nellis AFB, Nevada)
* 57th Wing - Nellis AFB, Nevada
o 66th Weapons Squadron
* 354th Fighter Wing - Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska
o 355th Fighter Squadron (inactivated 2007)
* 355th Wing - Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona
o 354th Fighter Squadron
o 357th Fighter Squadron
o 358th Fighter Squadron

Four A-10s of the 111th Fighter Wing, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, fly in formation during a refueling mission.
Four A-10s of the 111th Fighter Wing, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, fly in formation during a refueling mission.

Air National Guard

* 103d Airlift Wing - Bradley ANGB, Connecticut (BRAC 2005 removed aircraft, given C-21 in 2007)
o 118th Fighter Squadron
* 104th Fighter Wing - Barnes ANGB, Massachusetts (BRAC 2005 saw unit transition to F-15C in 2007)
o 131st Fighter Squadron
* 110th Fighter Wing - Battle Creek ANGB, Michigan(BRAC 2005 moves aircraft to 107th Fighter Squadron at Selridge ANGB, Michigan)
o 172d Fighter Squadron
* 111th Fighter Wing - Willow Grove ARS, Pennsylvania (BRAC 2005 sees unit losing aircraft in 2012)
o 103d Fighter Squadron
* 124th Wing - Boise Air Terminal, Idaho
o 190th Fighter Squadron
* 175th Wing - Warfield ANGB, Martin State Airport, Maryland
o 104th Fighter Squadron
* 188th Fighter Wing - Fort Smith, Arkansas (Transitioned from F-16s to A-10s due to BRAC 2005)

Air Force Reserve Command

* 442d Fighter Wing - Whiteman AFB, Missouri
o 76th Fighter Squadron (Moody AFB, GA)
o 303d Fighter Squadron
* 917th Wing - Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana
o 45th Fighter Squadron (Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ)
o 47th Fighter Squadron
* 926th Fighter Wing - NAS JRB New Orleans, Louisiana
o 706th Fighter Squadron (deactivated 2007)

[edit] A-10s on display

* AeroWeb's A-10 List on Display

[edit] Specifications (A-10A)
Firing the 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger cannon.
Firing the 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger cannon.

Data from The Great Book of Modern Warplanes[30]

General characteristics

* Crew: 1
* Length: 53 ft 4 in (16.26 m)
* Wingspan: 57 ft 6 in (17.53 m)
* Height: 14 ft 8 in (4.47 m)
* Wing area: 506 ft² (47.0 m²;)
* Airfoil: NACA 6716 root, NACA 6713 tip
* Empty weight: 24,959 lb (11,321 kg)
* Loaded weight:
o Standard: 30,384 lb (13,782 kg)
o On CAS mission: 47,094 lb (21,361 kg)
o On anti-armor mission: 42,071 lb (19,083 kg)
* Max takeoff weight: 50,000 lb (23,000 kg)
* Powerplant: 2× General Electric TF34-GE-100A turbofans, 9,065 lbf (40.32 kN) each


* Never exceed speed: 450 knots (518 mph, 833 km/h)
* Maximum speed: 450 knots (518 mph, 833 km/h) at 5,000 ft (1,500 m) with 18 Mk 82 bombs[31]
* Cruise speed: 300 knots (340 mph, 560 km/h)
* Stall speed: 120 knots (220 km/h) [32]
* Combat radius:
o On CAS mission: 250 nmi (288 mi, 460 km) at 1.88 hour single-engine loiter at 5,000 ft (1,500 m), 10 min combat
o On anti-armor mission: 252 nmi (290 mi, 467 km), 40 nm (45 mi, 75 km) sea-level penetration and exit, 30 min combat
* Ferry range: 2,240 nmi (2,580 mi, 4,150 km) with 50 knot (55 mph, 90 km/h) headwinds, 20 minutes reserve
* Service ceiling 45,000 ft (13,700 m)
* Rate of climb: 6,000 ft/min (30 m/s)
* Wing loading: 99 lb/ft² (482 kg/m²;)
* Thrust/weight: 0.36


* Guns: 1× 30 mm (1.18 in) GAU-8/A Avenger gatling gun with 1174 rounds
* Hardpoints: 8× under-wing and 3× under-fuselage pylon stations holding up to 16,000 lb (7,200 kg) and accommodating:
o Mark 82, Mark 83, and Mark 84 general-purpose bombs or
o Mk 77 incendiary bombs or
o BLU-1, BLU-27/B Rockeye II, Mk20, BL-755[33] and CBU-52/58/71/87/89/97 cluster bombs or
o Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (A-10C) or
o GBU-10 Paveway II, GBU-12 Paveway II, GBU-16 Paveway II and GBU-24 Paveway III laser-guided bombs or
o Joint Direct Attack Munition (A-10C)[34] or
o AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles or
o LAU-68 Hydra 70 mm (2.76 in) and 127 mm (5.0 in) rocket pods or
o Illumination flares, ECM and chaff pods or
o ALQ-131/ALQ-184 ECM pod or
o LITENING AT/Sniper XR targeting pods (A-10C)

A-10 close-up.
A-10 close-up.

Popular culture

The A-10 Thunderbolt II received its popular nickname "Warthog" from the pilots and crews of the USAF attack squadrons who flew and maintained this unique aircraft. The A-10 is the last of Republic's jet attack aircraft to serve with the USAF. The Republic F-84 Thunderjet was nicknamed the "Hog", F-84F Thunderstreak nicknamed "Superhog", and the Republic F-105 Thunderchief tagged "Ultra Hog".[3] A less common nickname is the "Tankbuster".[35]
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Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout

The Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout is an unmanned autonomous helicopter developed for use by the United States armed forces.[1] Northrop Grumman is developing the Fire Scout to provide reconnaissance, situational awareness, and precision targeting support. The initial RQ-8A version was based on the Schweizer 330, while the enhanced MQ-8B is derived from the Schweizer 33


As the US Navy was withdrawing its RQ-2 Pioneers from service, it began to seek a second generation UAV. The Navy requirement specified a vertical takeoff & landing (VTOL) aircraft, with a payload capacity of 90 kilograms (200 pounds), a range of 200 kilometers (125 miles), an endurance on station of three hours at an altitude of 6 kilometers (20,000 ft), and the ability to land on a ship in a 46 km/h (29 mph) breeze. The UAV was to fly 190 hours between maintenance.

There were three finalists in the competition, which was designated "VTOL-UAV" or "VTUAV". Bell, Sikorsky, and a collaboration of Teledyne Ryan and Schweizer Aircraft submitted designs. The Ryan-Schweizer UAV was selected as the winner in the spring of 2000. The RQ-8A Fire Scout, as it was named, was a derivative of the Schweizer three-passenger, turbine powered 330SP helicopter, with a new fuselage, new fuel system, and UAV electronics and sensors.

The initial prototype of the Fire Scout was piloted in initial tests, flying autonomously for the first time in January 2000. The Rolls-Royce 250-C20 turbine engine ran on JP-5 and JP-8 jet fuel, which is nonvolatile and safe for shipboard storage.

The Fire Scout was to be fitted with a sensor ball turret that carries electro-optic and infrared cameras, and a laser range finder. It was to be controlled over a data link derived from the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV, operating over a line of sight to a distance of 280 kilometers (172 miles). The control system was to be fitted onto a ship, or could be carried on a Hummer light vehicle for U.S. Marine service.
An RQ-8A prepares for the first autonomous landing aboard the USS Nashville (LPD 13) during sea trials in 2006.

In January 2006, an RQ-8A Fire Scout landed aboard the U.S. Navy warship USS Nashville while it was steaming off the coast of Maryland near the Patuxent River. This marked the first time an unmanned helicopter has landed aboard a moving U.S. Navy ship without a pilot controlling the aircraft.[2][3] The USS Nashville, which is an amphibious transport ship, was maneuvering as fast as 17 mph (27 km/h) in the tests.
[edit] MQ-8B

Although progress on the project had been regarded as satisfactory, the Navy decided the Fire Scout didn't meet their needs after all, and cut funding for production in December 2001. However, the development program continued, and Northrop Grumman pitched a range of improved configurations to anyone who was interested. As it turned out, the U.S. Army was very interested, awarding a contract for seven improved "RQ-8B" evaluation machines in late 2003. In 2006, it was redesignated "MQ-8B".

The MQ-8B features four-blade main rotor, in contrast to the larger-diameter three-blade rotor of the RQ-8A, to reduce noise and improve lift capacity and performance. The four-blade rotor had already been evaluated on Fire Scout prototypes. They boost gross takeoff weight by 500 pounds to 3,150 pounds (by 225 kg to 1,430 kg), with payloads of up to 700 pounds (320 kg) for short-range missions.

The MQ-8B is fitted with stub wings as well. The wings will serve both an aerodynamic purpose as well as an armament carriage location, to include weapons such as Hellfire missiles, Viper Strike laser-guided glide weapons, and in particular pods carrying the "Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS)", a laser-guided 70 millimeter (2.75 inch) folding-fin rocket, which the Army sees as ideal for the modern battlefield. The Army is also interested in using the Fire Scout to carry up to 200 pounds (90 kilograms) of emergency supplies to troops in the field.
MQ-8B Fire Scout at the RIAT.

The MQ-8B is being modified to permit rapid swapout of payload configurations. The current sensor configuration of a day/night turret with a laser target designator will of course remain an option. Alternate sensor payloads in consideration include a TSAR with Moving Target Indicator (MTI) capability, a multispectral sensor, a SIGINT module, the Target Acquisition Minefield Detection System (ASTAMIDS), and the Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL). The Army wants the Fire Scout to operate as an element of an integrated ground sensor network as well.

The Army interest revived Navy interest in the program, with the Navy ordering eight Sea Scout MQ-8B derivatives for evaluation. In January 2010, the Army terminated its involvement with the Fire Scout contending that the Shadow UAV could meet the Army's needs.[4]

The MQ-8B compliments the manned aviation detachments onboard Air Capable ships and is deployed along with either an SH-60B HSL/HSM detachment or a SH-60S HSC detachment. With the planned addition of RADAR, AIS, and weapons, the MQ-8B will provide many of the capabilities currently provided by the SH-60B. It will also give the ship and embarked air detachment greater flexibility in meeting mission demands and will free up the manned aircraft for those missions.[citation needed]
[edit] Operational history
An MQ-8B is maintained at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point

Production of the flight test airframes was initiated in April 2006 at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems production plant in Moss Point, Mississippi. First flight of the MQ-8B took place on December 18, 2006 at NAS Patuxent River.

The flight test program is underway and the Navy approved low-rate initial production.[5] Production aircraft will eventually be deployed on the Navy's Littoral Combat Ships.

In February 2008, the U.S. Navy announced that they would integrate the MQ-8B Fire Scout VTUAV onto another air-capable ship before it reaches the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).[citation needed] The Fire Scout is still slated to go aboard the LCS, and the Navy remains committed to transitioning the Fire Scout in that direction.

The Fire Scout is a key enabler for LCS and significantly contributes to its designated warfare mission areas of anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare and mine warfare. The modular nature of the ship to accomplish the designated mission is complemented by the Fire Scout and its modular mission payload capability. However, due to changes in the LCS development schedule, the Navy intends to conduct the Fire Scout Operational Evaluation (OpEval) aboard USS McInerney (FFG-8).[6] This will provide the fleet with unmanned aerial system support as soon as possible.

The Fire Scout first embarked aboard the guided-missile frigate USS McInerney, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, while in port for operational fit checks and ship integration testing on Dec. 10, 2008. The Fire Scout is slated to deploy aboard USS McInerney during its next counter-narcotics trafficking deployment later this year.[7]

According to the current schedule, the Navy will conduct Technical Evaluation on the Fire Scout on the FFG-8 in the fall 2008 and OpEval in the summer 2009. The Fire Scout will reach Initial Operating Capability soon after OpEval in 2009. The Navy will continue to support LCS Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) efforts in fiscal year 2011.[8]

Recent flight tests took place May 4–8 off the coast of Mayport, Fla. The U.S. Navy Fire Scout completed test flights in areas of shipboard deck motion and wind envelope expansion and landings including the use of the grid and harpoon system. During the five days of testing, the ship/aircraft team compiled 19 flight hours during 12 flights, which included 54 landings, 37 of which were into the NATO standard grid.[7]

In September 2009, the Navy announced the first deployment of the MQ-8B aboard the McInerney.[9]

On 3 April 2010, an MQ-8 from McInerney detected a "go-fast" open speedboat and a support vessel engaged in smuggling cocaine in the Eastern Pacific, allowing the ship to confiscate 60 kg of cocaine and detain a number of suspects.[10]

On 2 August 2010 an MQ-8 became unresponsive to commands during testing and violated Washington, DC airspace. Cite
[edit] Variants


[edit] Operators
An RQ-8A Fire Scout takes off at the Webster Field Annex of Naval Air Station Patuxent River in 2005.

United States

* United States Navy

[edit] Specifications (MQ-8B)

Data from Northrop Grumman[11], Nav Air[12]

General characteristics

* Crew: 0
* Payload: 600 lbs (272 kg)
* Length: 23.95 ft (7.3 m)
* Rotor diameter: 27.5 ft (8.4 m)
* Height: 9.71 ft (2.9 m)
* Empty weight: 2,073 lbs (940.3 kg)
* Max takeoff weight: 3,150 lbs (1,430 kg)
* Powerplant: 1× Rolls-Royce 250, 313 kw ()


* Maximum speed: 115+ knots
* Cruise speed: 110 knots
* Combat radius: 110 nmi (203.7 km) plus 5+ hours on station
* Endurance: 8 hours
* Service ceiling: 20,000 ft (6,100 m)
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When development of the F-22 began in 1981, the Air Force intended to purchase 648 aircraft at an estimated total program cost of $99.1 billion -- making it the most expensive weapons system in history. The program began to meet what was perceived as a growing threat of Soviet air power and to replace the F-15 fighter.

Requests for information were issued, resulting in concept definition studies awarded in September 1983 to Boeing, General Dynamics, Grumman, McDonnell Douglas, Northrop and Rockwell;





Competing engine demonstration/validation programs launched September 1983;





Requests for proposals for an Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) issued in September.



Submissions received by 28 July 1986;

On 31 October 1986 USAF announced selection of demonstration / validation phase contractors: Lockheed YF-22 and Northrop YF-23; Both Lockheed and Northrop produced two prototypes and a ground-based avionics testbed;

Ground testing started in 1986, continuing during 1987;





Flight-capable engines, Pratt & Whitney YF119s and General Electric YF120s were ordered early 1988;

Lockheed teamed with General Dynamics (Fort Worth) and Boeing Military Airplanes to produce two YF-22 prototypes, civil registrations N22YF (with GE YF120) and N22YX (P&W YF119);



October 11 the decision was taken to extend the evaluation phase by six months. First flight test of avionics in a Boeing 757, modified to include a F-22 wing section mounted above the forward fuselage to test conformal antennas.



First flights of all four prototypes.

USAF serial numbers 87-0700 and 87-0701 assigned, but only 87-0701 applied during second phase of testing, from late 1991.

- N22YF rolled out at Pahndale 29 August 1990;
- First flight/ferry to Edwards AFB 29 September 1990;
- First air refueling (1 lth sortie) 26 October 1990;
- N22YX first flight Palmdale Edwards 30 October 1990;
- Thrust vectoring in flight 15 November 1990;
- Anti-spin parachute for high angle of attack tests on 34th to 43rd sorties;
- AIM-9M Sidewinder launch demonstration 28 November 1990
- AIM-120A AMRAAM launch demonstration 20 December 1990
- Max speed of Mach 1.8 and super cruise of Mach 1.58 without afterburner achieved on 26 December 1990;

Temporarily grounded after 31 sorties/38 hours 48 minutes, 28 December 1990.

the F-22 team conducted a 54-month demonstration/validation (dem/val) program. The effort involved the design, construction, and flight testing of two YF-22 prototype aircraft. The dem/val phase of the program was completed in December 1990.



Flight test demonstrations included 100ø/s roll rate at 120 knots and super cruise flight in excess of Mach 1.58 without Second (F119-powered)

YF-22 taken by road to Palmdale mid-1991;

Fitted with strain gauges; began further 100 hour test programe 30 October;
Gathered data on aerodynamic loads, flight control aerodynamic effects, vibration/acoustic fatigue and maximum coefficient of lift;

The Air Force announces the F-22 as the winner in the next generation fighter contest.

In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and its advanced aircraft were either not produced, or produced in limited quantity, and lacked the necessary maintenance to pose a serious threat to American fighters. Partially as a result, the Department of Defense cancelled both the MRF and A/F-X programs, but continued with the F-22 and F/A-18E/F.

Two contracts totaling $10.91 billion ($9.55 billion for the airframe and $1.36 billion for engines) were awarded for Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) of the F-22 and F119 to the then Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics team and Pratt & Whitney in August 1991.



Flown by 65 10th test Squadron (F-22 Combined Test Force) of 65 10th Test Wing at Edwards AFB; a non-fatal crash landing at Edwards 25 April 1992, following pilot-induced oscillations;

Lockheed officials claimed that 95 percent of the testing was already complete at the time of the crash. The Air Force blamed the tragedy on the way the plane was operated and that certain operating restrictions and minor software changes should prevent future problems. After the crash, flight testing on the F-22 was suspended.

Non-flyable, but repaired for use as antenna testbed at Rome Air Development Center, Griffiss AFB, New York.



Fabrication of first component for first EMD aircraft (c/n 4001 ) began at Boeing's facility in Kent, Washington on 8 December 1993;

Combat role reassessment adds air-to-ground attack with precision-guided munitions to the F-22's roles. Weapons bay and avionics to be adapted for delivery of 1,000 pound Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM); two JDAM's will replace two AIM-120A's in the main weapons bay.

In 1993, the Air Force planned to purchase 648 F-22s at a per plane cost of $84 million in 1995 dollars.

In 1993, the Department of Defense identified seven countries -- China, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, North Korea and Cuba -- that pose potential threats to the United States. Estimates vary as to the quantity and quality of these countries' respective air forces. The General Accounting Office estimated that these potential adversaries, with the exception of China, possess air forces ranging from a low of 188 to a high 460 aircraft.



In 1994, procurement was reduced to 442 aircraft, with an estimated cost of $73.5 billion in fiscal year 1995 dollars. This raised the per plane cost to $91 million.

As of December 31, 1994, $11.9 billion had been spent on the F-22 program.



Supporters contend that the F-22 can also be used in an air-to-ground role. However, the Congressional Budget Office concluded in a February 1995 report that the F-22's utility in this role would be far less than that of an aircraft designed specifically for that mission.

The Congressional Budget Office report entitled "Reducing the Deficit" concluded in February 1995 that cancellation of the F-22 program would result in a five-year savings of $14.5 billion dollars. The CBO's primary reason for the cancellation option is that the F-22's additional capability is both unnecessary and too expensive.

The Critical Design Review (CDR) of the F-22 and the Initial Production Readiness Review (IPRR) of the F119 engine were completed in February 1995. The Air Force confirmed that the program was ready to proceed to fabrication and assembly of EMD aircraft.

Assembly work also begun at Fort Worth Summer 1995

Assembly of forward fuselage launched at Marietta on 2 November 1995 with start of work on nose landing gear well;

Supporters of the F-22 are expected to try and add $200 million to the military budget in fiscal year 1996 to avoid delays in the F-22 program. The Air Force originally requested $2.3 billion for fiscal year 1996 for the F-22 program, but the Pentagon reduced that to $2.1 billion. This follows a $110 million cut by Congress in the 1995 budget request, and $163 million in the FY 1994 budget plan.



$2.15 billion has been requested for fiscal year 1996

Mating of three assemblies that comprise the mid-fuselage of first EMD aircraft taking place in Spring 1996

Road transfer of the entire section to Marietta in August 1996, starting the final assembly process;

The anticipated total program cost of the F-22 is $73.5 billion for 442 aircraft.



$2.05 billion requested for fiscal year 1997.

First flight of an EMD aircraft, which was originally planned for May 1997 took place in September 1997.

Fall 1997
The number-one YF-22 prototype, painted and marked as the Pratt & Whitney powered aircraft, is scheduled to be put on display at the U. S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

October 1997
Approximately 10 F-22 test flights will be made from Marietta, Ga. During the later flights, the F-22 will undergo aerial refueling qualifications.

Although the Navy would like to adopt a variant of the F-22, the current design is only capable from operating from long, land based air strips. This model does not have a strong enough frame to handle the violent jolts incurred from landing on a short, moving aircraft carrier deck. The Navy maintains the option to begin work on their own variant in 1997.



March 31, An official ceremony today marked the transfer of the YF-22, the prototype for the F-22 Raptor, to the U. S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

May 17~18, The F-22 added another page to the base's long history of aviation milestones today when it resumed active flight testing at approximately 7:30 in the morning at Edwards Airforce Base. One day later the aircraft continued to check out "Code One", meaning returning to base with no deficiencies.

July 30, F-22 testers air-refueled a Raptor for the first time when aircraft 4001 topped off its tank behind a KC-135 about one-and-a-half hours into a test flight here July 30. The air refueling took place at an altitude of 20,000 feet and an air speed of 300 knots (approximately 345 mph) above Edwards Airforce Base.

August 26, The second US Air Force F-22 Raptor air dominance fighter, designated Raptor 4002, made its first cross-country flight today nonstop from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Marietta, Ga., to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. In California

October 13, Lockheed Martin test pilot Jon Beesley has flown the first F-22 built by Air Force contractors Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Pratt & Whitney faster than the speed of sound for the first time.

The Air Force plans to procure 438 production F-22s, and production is scheduled to run through 2013.



The final Production Readiness Review for the F119 engine is scheduled to take place at Pratt & Whitney's facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. Later in the month, the F119 Full Flight Release is scheduled to be granted. Due to happen mid 1999

First flight of an EMD F-22 with a full avionics suite is expected to take place around mid 1999

September 30, 1999
The last of 27 EMD F119 flight test engines are scheduled to be delivered to Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems.

Low-rate initial production is scheduled to begin in 1999.

Planned delivery of lot 1: 2 pcs

During July the House Appropriations Committee agreed to suspend planned production of the F-22 stealth fighter, taking away some $1.8 billion in production funds to buy the first six fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp

Frantic negotiations were held over the next few months, to reach an agreement before the next official year started October 1st '99. House and Senate negotiators ended the struggle, giving the Air Force only half the $1.8 billion it had requested for next year to get the F-22 off the ground. The compromise spared the $65 billion program from being scrapped, as the House had voted last July.

The planes could only be put into production if certain performance tests were passed.



Planned delivery of lot 2: 6 pcs



The contractor portion of the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase of the program is scheduled to be completed. Defense Aquisition Board grants the air force 295 planes. Read about the production of the F-22's in this news article: Approval of F-22 Pleases Air Force

Planned delivery: 10 pcs



13 planes delivered.

FB-22 conceived. Still on drawing board as of 2002. The FB-22 will be a variant of the F-22, but adapted for bombing missions, taking the role of a super bomber. Will have a wing-style of an F-14 in supersonic mode (swept back, and most of body providing lift.).

F-22 has now been Re-designated as the F/A-22, officially.





The F-22 is scheduled to enter operational service and it will begin to take over the air dominance role first with Air Combat Command late 2004.
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Light Helicopter Experimental (LHX) program was a 1980s United States Army helicopter procurement project to replace the AH-1 Cobra and OH-58 helicopters.

Advanced Composite Airframe Program

In support of the LHX program the United States Army started the Advanced Composite Airframe Program (ACAP) to develop an all-composite helicopter fuselage.[1] In February 1981 contracts were awarded to Sikorsky (for the Sikorsky S-75) and Bell Helicopter (for the Bell D-292).
[edit] LHX

In 1982 the U.S. Army started the Light Helicopter Experimental (LHX) program to replace UH-1, AH-1, OH-6, and OH-58 helicopters. This requirement was changed to a reconnaissance helicopter by 1988.

A Request for proposals for the new helicopter type was released in June 1988. In October 1988, the Boeing-Sikorsky and Bell-McDonnell Douglas teams received contracts for their designs. The program's name was changed to Light Helicopter (LH) in 1990.[4] In April 1991, the Boeing-Sikorsky team was selected as the contest winner and received a contract to build four prototypes. Also that month the helicopter was designated "RAH-66 Comanche" by the Army.
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With a slight revision of Dr. Charlie's TIGER BLOOD
NOW on the market is



The Advertisement poster

here is the tiger blood as advertised
and sold in fine mercantile stores in your town
Or order by catalog
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A concept of the Sol Defense Force Marine. I'm still working out the kinks of the armor design. Any feedback from you guys is welcome.

The Sol Defense Force Marine Corps is a branch of the Sol Defense Force that is responsible for land-based military operations as well as the protection of Naval vessels and installations from attack. They are a rugged and diverse assortment of well equipped and well trained men and women.

The Marine Corps serves as a versatile combat element, and is adapted to a wide variety of combat operations. The Marine Corps was initially composed of infantry combat forces serving aboard naval vessels, responsible for security of the ship, its captain and officers, offensive and defensive combat during boarding actions, by acting as sharpshooters, and carrying out amphibious assaults. The Marines were officially designated as the SDF’s main combat element in 2130 after the role they played in the Terrestrial Wars on Mars, disbanding and replacing the SDF Army.

The Marines are the most rugged infantry force known. Despite the fact that the Marines are highly respected, most special forces units (SOSTs in particular) see the Marines as inferior to themselves. This has caused a deep-seated resentment of SOSTs within the ranks of the Marine Corps. Often mocking their “superior” training and armor, Marines joke that SOSTs are just regular Marines who put on a fancy helmet and call themselves special forces.

DISCLAIMER: Catalyst, the Catalyst Universe and this artwork are the intellectual property Michael Wright (c) 2009-2011. Any unauthorized claim of ownership of this work is prohibited. You may not use this work (or any other work created by Michael Wright and Embolden Studios for that matter) for any purposes whatsoever without the express permission of the owner (that would be me). If you wish to display this work on a personal site or whatnot, I humbly ask that you ask for permission first before doing so. This disclaimer applies to all other works created by Michael Wright and Embolden Studios.
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