The MQ-1 Predator is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which the U.S. Air Force describes as a MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) UAV system. It can serve in a reconnaissance role, and it can also be weaponized and can carry and use two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The aircraft has been in use since 1995, and been in combat over Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Yemen.
The MQ-1 Predator is a system, not just an aircraft. The fully operational system consists of four air vehicles (with sensors), a ground control station (GCS), a Predator primary satellite link communication suite and 55 people. In the over-all U.S. Air Force integrated UAV system, the Predator is considered a "Tier II" vehicle.
The Predator system was initially designated the RQ-1 Predator, with the "R" is the Department of Defense designation for reconnaissance, "Q" means unmanned aircraft system. The "1" describes it as being the first of a series of purpose-built unmanned reconnaissance aircraft systems. Pre-production systems were designated as RQ-1A, while the RQ-1B (not to be confused with the RQ-1 Predator B, which became the MQ-9 Reaper) denotes the baseline production configuration. It should be emphasized that these are designations of the system as a unit. The actual aircraft themselves were designated RQ-1K for pre-production models, and RQ-1L for production models. In 2002, the Air Force officially changed the designation to MQ-1 (the "M" designates multi-role) to reflect its growing use as an armed aircraft.
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