Air Weapons: March 30, 2004


The U.S. Army is sending two weapons-carrying Hunter RQ-5A UAVs to Iraq, marking the second (public) debut of armed UAVs and the first for the Army. Since 1999, the RQ-5A has been flown by the Army for real-time reconnaissance and surveillance and has seen service over Macedonia in support of NATO forces in Kosovo and in Iraq since last year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The UAV typically carries TV and FLIR sensors for day/night surveillance, has a 200 kilometers operating range 300 kilometers using another Hunter as a communications relay and 12 hour endurance capability. It can also be equipped with a laser designator. 

The Hunters will carry the Viper Strike precision munition, a derivative of the BAT submuntion with a semi-active laser seeker substituted for the BAT's infrared and acoustic sensors. Viper Strike is designed to be used in mountainous terrain and urban areas where a steep angle of attack is required. In other words, it comes straight down on top of the designed target. Originally designed as a submunition, Viper Strike is an unpowered glider about 36 inches long, some five inches in diameter with wings folded, and weighing 44 pounds. A new, lighter (11 pounds) version of the Viper is in the works. An official operational range for Viper Strike is not documented, but as an unpowered glide weapon dependent upon laser designation, it is likely not to be more than one or two kilometers from the UAV launching it. A follow-on version of Viper Strike will incorporate more accurate imaging infra-red and millimeter wave sensors in a single sensor. Less-lethal versions of Viper Strike (i.e. without a warhead) are also under considering for disabling vehicles. 

In comparison, the Hellfire looks fat at over 5 feet long, 28 inches across with fins, and around 100 lbs in weight with a much larger warhead. Viper Strike is cheaper and quieter (no rocket motor), lighter (more munitions per lift weight), and its smaller warhead generates less collateral damage. For the streets of Baghdad, the Hunter/Viper Strike combination looks to be a much better fit. -- Doug Mohney


Article Archive

Air Weapons: Current 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close