Intelligence


MQ-1B Armed Predator

The MQ-1B Armed Predator is a variant of the RQ-1 Predator that was modified to be able to accomplish a ground attack role as well as reconnaissance.

During Kosovo, using the Predator in a quick-reaction capacity was experimented with. By the end of Kosovo Predator had been fitted with laser designators. To put the laser on Predator required removing one of the cameras in order to make room. Kosovo ended before any operational attempts were made to lase targets for support. After Kosovo the design kept evolving, to a reduction turret that had both cameras in it and the laser designator.

The Air Force's predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle made aerospace history 21 February 2001 when it successfully launched a live HELLFIRE missile helping it evolve from a non-lethal, reconnaissance asset to an armed, highly accurate tank killer. Capping a three-part series of demonstration flight tests, Predator successfully aimed and launched a 'live' HELLFIRE-C, laser-guided missile that struck an unmanned, stationary Army tank on the ground at Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Airfield near Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

The UAV was equipped with "hard points" by General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems International (GA-ASI), the prime contractor. The armed drone tests were conducted by the Air Force's "Big Safari" Program, which develops intelligence related aircraft.

Carrying HELLFIRE reduces endurance by a number of hours because of increased drag, especially if the drone was only carrying one, because of the subsequent 100 pounds of lopsided weight on the airplane.

In late 2001 the Defense Department claimed a nearly "100 percent record of hits" in several dozen battlefield attacks by Predators in Afghanistan.

The deaths in Yemen of six suspected al-Qaida terrorists, including a key planner in the bloody attack on a American destroyer the USS Cole, were the work of a missile fired by a unmanned US aircraft. On 4 November 2002 six al-Qaida members traveling in a vehicle in Yemen were killed by a HELLFIRE missile fired by a CIA controlled Predator unmanned drone aircraft. Among those reported killed was Ali Qaed Senyan al-Harethi, a key suspect in the October 2000 attack in Yemen on the US destroyer Cole. The senior al-Qaida leader in Yemen, Abu Ali al-Harithi, was riding in a car along with five other alleged terrorists. A missile, reportedly fired by a CIA unmanned aircraft, hit the vehicle about 170 kilometers east of Yemen's capital Sana'a. All inside were killed. The MQ-1B was flown by a pilot on the ground in French-garrisoned Djibouti and overseen by commanders in Saudi Arabia. The killing of the suspected al-Qaida senior operative sparked controversy in Yemen, and elsewhere in the Arab world. Analysts say many Arabs were willing to support the US-led war on terrorism, but not if US forces carried out such operations in Arab countries. In September 2002 Yemen had announced only Yemeni troops would be used to track down suspected al-Qaida members, and that no covert operations would be conducted by US forces. The United States said it still opposed Israel's policy of targeting Palestinian militants for assassination even though the CIA apparently used the same tactic in killing a senior al-Qaida operative.




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