The IAI RQ-5 Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was originally intended to serve as the United States Army's Short Range UAV system for division and corps commanders. It took off and landed (using arresting gear) on runways. It used a gimbaled EO/IR sensor to relay its video in real time via a second airborne Hunter over a C-band line-of-sight data link. The RQ-5 is based on the Hunter UAV that was developed by Israel Aircraft Industries.
The RQ-5 Hunter could be considered the most successful “cancelled program” the Army has ever had. System acquisition and training started in 1994 but production was cancelled in 1996 due to concerns over program mismanagement. Seven low rate initial production (LRIP) systems of eight aircraft each were acquired, four of which remained in service: one for training and three for doctrine development, exercise, and contingency support. Hunter was to be replaced by the RQ-7 Shadow, but instead of being replaced, the Army's has kept both systems in operation, because the Hunter has significantly larger payload, range, and time-on-station capabilities than the Shadow.
In 1995, A Company, 15th Military Intelligence Battalion (Aerial Exploitation) out of Fort Hood, TX was the first Army field unit equipped with the Hunter. A Company conducted multiple successful training rotations to the National Training Center. Then in March 1999, they were deployed to the Republic of Macedonia in support of NATO operations in Kosovo. During the 7 month operation, the Hunter was flown over 4000 hours. Significant operational success in Kosovo led to resumption of production and technical improvements. Hunter has been used in Iraq and other military operations since then. The system has also been armed with the Viper Strike munitions.
The Army's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training Battalion at Fort Huachuca, AZ trains soldiers and civilians in the operation and maintenance of the Hunter UAV.
In 2004, the United States Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, Office of Air and Marine utilized the Hunter under a trial program for border patrol duties. During this program, the Hunter flew 329 flight hours, resulting in 556 detections.
As of October 2012, the U.S. Army has 20 MQ-5B Hunters in service. The Hunter is being slowly replaced by the MQ-1C Grey Eagle. Retirement of the Hunter was expected to be completed in 2013. However, Northrop was awarded a support contract for the Hunter on January 22, 2013. The completion date for the contract is January 14, 2014, so the Hunter UAV is likely to be flying missions into 2014.
On 7 October 2013, the U.S. Army opened a UAS facility at Vilseck Army Airfield in Germany. A letter of agreement between the U.S. and Germany allows the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command to use two ‘air bridges’ in the east of the country to train operators, marking the first time a U.S. UAV will fly beyond the limits of military training areas. Two unarmed MQ-5B Hunters will be used solely for training drone operators.
In 1995, the french air force purchaser of Hunter, service terminaned in 2004. In 1998 the Belgian Air Force purchased three B-Hunter UAV-systems, each consisting of 6 aircraft and two ground control stations.
- Capacity: Payload: 90 kg (198 lb)
- Length: 7 m (23 ft 0 in)
- Wingspan: 8.9 m (29 ft 2 in)
- Gross weight: 727 kg (1,603 lb)
- Powerplant: 2 × Moto Guzzi twin cylinder, 4 stroke engines
- Endurance: 11.6 hours at 260 km (140 nmi; 162 mi)
- Service ceiling: 4,600 m (15,092 ft)
- "Office of Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine, UAS Presentation" (PDF). http://www.cbp.gov/linkhandler/cgov/border_security/air_marine/uas_program/uas_presentation.ctt/uas_presentation.pdf. Retrieved 2006-10-31.
- "Northrop Grumman (TRW/IAI) BQM-155/RQ-5/MQ-5 Hunter". http://www.designation-systems.net/dusrm/m-155.html.
- UAV Growth Continues - Strategypage.com, October 30, 2012
- Northrop gets new Hunter UAS support deal from US Army - Flightglobal.com, January 30, 2013
- Pentagon Awards Northrop $37.3 Million to Support Hunter UAV Work - SUASNews.com, January 23, 2013
- United States Army opens new Unmanned Aerial System facility at Vilseck Army Airfield in Germany - Armyrecognition.com, 10 October 2013
- Belgian Military Aircraft
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