Pioneer UAV Program 


Pioneer was procured starting in 1985 as an interim UAV capability to provide imagery intelligence (IMINT) for tactical commanders on land and at sea (originally launched from Navy Iowa-class battleships, today from LPD-class ships). In ten years, Pioneer has flown nearly 14,000 flight hours and supported every major U.S. contingency operation to date. It flew 300+ combat reconnaissance missions during Persian Gulf operations in 1990-91. Since September 1994, it has flown in contingency operations over Bosnia, Haiti and Somalia; most recently it flew in Task Force Eagle and IFOR operations again over Bosnia. Prime contractor is Pioneer UAV, Inc., Hunt Valley, MD.




5 Air Vehicles
1 Ground Control Station
1 Portable Control Station
4 Remote Receiving Stations (max)
1 Truck-Mounted Launcher


Sensors: EO or IR
Deployment: Multiple* C-130/C-141/C-17/C-5sorties; also shipboard

Radius: 185 km (100 nm)
Endurance: 5 hrs
Max Altitude: 4.6 km (15,000 ft)
Cruise Speed: 120 km/hr (65 kts)

*Depends on equipage and duration

Flight Dataa

· Flights / Hours


33 / 89

629 / 1,554

Total to Date

4,000+ / 13,798


 Funding ($M):

Procurement (Defense-wide)
Procurement (Navy)





aAs of 30 Sep 96


Program Status

Pioneer continues to operate as the DoD's first operational UAV system. Currently, there are nine systems in the active force: the Navy operates five, the Marine Corps three, and one is assigned to the Joint UAV Training Center (JUAVTC) at Ft. Huachuca, AZ. The Navy system at Patuxent River Naval Air Station (NAS), MD, supports software changes, hardware acceptance, test and evaluation of potential payloads, and technology developments to meet future UAV requirements (see p.40). An additional 30 Pioneers (procured in FY 1994) were delivered from September 1995 through November 1996, along with continuing support kit and spares procurement. These aircraft are in the Option 2+ configuration, which has slight increases in air vehicle weight and fuel capacity. A third extension of the Pioneer force's operational life is being planned through FY2003, until TUAV systems are fielded and able to meet tactical-level UAV requirements. During FY1996, one Marine unit deployed to Tuzla, Bosnia, to support peacekeeping operations ashore, and two Navy units successively deployed aboard USS Shreveport and USS Austin to support fleet operations and contingency operations ashore as needed.