Warplanes: Hunter Versus Predator


June 30, 2007: The U.S. Army's MQ-5A Hunter UAV lost out to the Predator in the 1990s competition for a primary battlefield UAV. But the army kept in storage the 61 it had, and put them back in action in time for the 1999 Kosovo operation. The need for UAVs in Iraq kept Hunter in action. So far, the Hunters have flown over 50,000 hours, about half of them in combat, and most of that in just the last year. Originally an also-ran, the Hunter has turned into a popular UAV, and received a number of upgrades. However, the Predator, with twice as many aircraft in service, has flown 250,000 hours so far.

The 1600 pound MQ-5A can only carry 200 pounds of sensors and weapons. It's an Israeli design, and the Israelis have had great success with it. But the Predator is larger and has longer endurance, and this has been a major advantage. Predator can also carry hundred pound Hellfire missiles, which the Hunter can only carry two 44 pound Viper Strikes. Army helicopter pilots are selected and trained to operate the armed Hunters.

A new version of the Hunter has a more powerful engine and larger fuel capacity, giving it 40 hours endurance, and a weight of 2,200 pounds. The new version is called MQ-5B, and the army has ordered 18 of them, as well as upgrading nine MQ-5As to B versions. The MQ-5B also has improved software, which enables it to take off and land by itself. Endurance for Hunter has been increased several times over the last few years, from the original eleven hours.


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