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Smithsonian puts UAVs on display

by Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

4/25/2008 - WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Officials at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum unveiled a new exhibit April 24 of military unmanned aerial vehicles representing each branch of service.

Of the six UAVs on display, three artifacts came from the U.S. Air Force:

- MQ-1L Predator A
- RQ-3A Darkstar
- X-45A Joint Unmanned Combat Air System

"UAVs are the future of combat air forces," said Dik Daso, the museum curator for modern military aircraft. "This generation is familiar with UAVs and most of what they see here they'll recognize."

Each of the UAVs in the exhibit is unique in its individual accomplishments. For example, the Predator in the display was one of the first three MQ-1s over Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. In addition, it was the first Predator to launch a missile in combat.

The curator said the Predator on display flew 196 combat sorties, racking up more than 2,700 flight hours, about the same number of flying hours Mr. Daso accumulated as a pilot during his 20-year Air Force career.

For one museum patron, seeing the UAV exhibit was a welcome surprise.

"The display looks great and it's amazing to see (the UAVs) in person," said Chicago native John Perseghin, who was visiting the Air and Space Museum with his daughter's class. "To me, it's obvious we need these in our military. They're important in doing things like reconnaissance without jeopardizing human lives."

Mr. Daso said their goal is to inform museum patrons about the role UAVs play in modern warfare.

"We want to educate our visitors even more on what UAVs have done and what they currently do for us today," he said. "We used unmanned aerial vehicles in World War II and Vietnam, but things like the Predator have utterly revolutionized the way our military fights. The UAVs in our display have significant combat histories and important stories to tell. That's why they're here."

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