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General Atomics Aeronautical MQ-1L Predator No. 3034 — first to strike after 9-11

27 April 2012

General Atomics Aeronautical MQ-1L Predator No. 3034 — first to strike after 9-11

The General Atomics Aeronautical MQ-1L Predator has been flying since 1995 and is a generation beyond the UAVs of the 1980s. This is the first UAV to fly armed and the first to strike for the United States after 9-11. It is a large and powerful craft in its own right with a four cylinder reciprocating pusher engine of 115 hp (86kW) and borne aloft on a 48.7 foot (14.8m) wing. The Predator’s armament of as many as four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles marks it as an attack aircraft, perhaps UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) would be more accurate as a designation, makes it a threat to lightly armored vehicles as well as lightly fortified positions. Navigational is done both inertially and with GPS. The sensor package, though, makes it the effective UAV weapons system known throughout the world. The gimballing turret houses a two color video camera as well as a forward looking infrared (FLIR) imaging device, laser designator and rangefinder — synthetic aperture radar (SAR) is located near the tail with an additional antenna forward (the radar also has a mode which can detect movement against ground clutter). This sensor package, weighing less than 450 pounds (204.5kg) allows the Predator to detect in the day, the night, above cloud and under foilage. It can fly for 675 miles (1100km) and, more importantly, having 24 hour endurance. As any scout or hunter learns — surveying an area patiently and thoroughly for long periods of time makes for a more successful find rate.

This modern generation UAV is controlled from across the oceans via satellite link, the blended dome atop the nose houses a petite sized swiveling dish antenna for that purpose.

The Predator in the photographs below is historic No. 3034, which was the platform used to launch the first Hellfire missiles in Afghanistan after  the attacks on 9-11 — it is displayed in Gallery 104 of the National Air & Space Museum on the National Mall and the museum provides this fact sheet. More on Gallery 104 can be seen by pasting “Gallery 104” into the search window and selecting ENTER.

No. 3034, first to strike after 9-11, General Atomics MQ-1L Predator in the National Air & Space Museum on the National Mall— photo by Joseph May

The gimballing turret which housed three imaging devices, note the weather vane at the end of the probe — photo by Joseph May

Ventral view showing the sensor lenses, retracted tricycle landing gear and pair of wing mounted Hellfire missiles — photo by Joseph May

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