Warplanes: March 19, 2001


The Air Force is conducting a series of tests in which an RQ-1A Predator unmanned recon drone will fire three Army Hellfire missiles at stationary targets on the Nevada test range. The result could be a quick way to create an armed hunter-killer that could loiter over enemy positions for hours waiting for an interesting target to appear. These tests mark a sea change within NATO, which had been concerned that arming UAVs could result in them being classified as illegal ground-launched cruise missiles under various arms control treaties. Those treaties were meant to cover anything that could deliver a nuclear weapon over strategic distances, but were written before the concept of unmanned recon drones appeared.--Stephen V Cole


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