The United States Army announced that they have retired their Northrop Grumman MQ-5B Hunter UAV aircraft after the last flight took place at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. This aircraft has been in service since 1996 and has received multiple upgrades including a USD$91.2 million reset back in 2011. It is being replaced by another Northrop Grumman model, the MQ-1C Gray Eagle.
The Q-5 Hunter is the Army’s oldest UAV. This aircraft first saw action in 1996 in Kosovo as the RQ-5A which was designed by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI). IAI’s American marketing and development partner Northrop Grumman developed the latest version of the Q-5, the MQ-5B. The MQ-5B aircraft took its first flight in July 2005 and was deployed to the front lines a year later. Just under 30 UAVs of this type are in service and in January of 2011, passed 100,000 hours of flying time.
The replacement aircraft, the MQ-1C Gray Eagle, is an extended range multipurpose unmanned aircraft system (UAS) developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, and is an improved variant of the combat-proven Predator unmanned aerial vehicle. This aircraft performs various missions including reconnaissance, target acquisition, surveillance, command and control, communications relay, signals intelligence (SIGINT), electronic warfare (EW), attack, improvised explosive device (IED) and battle damage assessment. During its initial seven month training and evaluation period, the aircraft accumulated more than 1,700 hours during 238 flights. As of today, the US Army has received 61 Gray Eagle aircraft and 44 more are on order.
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