Predator (MAE UAV) Program


Predator, also identified as the Medium Altitude Endurance (MAE) or Tier II UAV, is a derivative of the Gnat 750 (Tier I) UAV. In July 1996, Predator completed its 30-month ACTD program and is transitioning to low-rate initial production (LRIP) in the formal acquisition arena. The system provides long-range, long-dwell, near-real-time imagery intelligence (IMINT) to satisfy reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA) mission requirements. The air vehicle carries both EO/IR and SAR sensors which, with Ku- as well as UHF-band satellite communication (SATCOM) links, enable the system to acquire and pass imagery to ground stations for adverse weather, beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) use by tactical commanders. Recent addition of de-icing equipment now allows transit and operation in adverse weather conditions. This capability was deployed to Bosnia in October 1996. As production assets augment ACTD assets, Predator will be the operational endurance UAV workhorse for the next several years. Prime contractor is General Atomics ­ Aeronautical Systems, Inc., San Diego, CA.



4 Air Vehicles
1 Ground Control Station
1 Trojan Spirit II Dissemination System
Ground Support Equipment


Sensors: EO, IR, and SAR
Deployment: Multiple* C-130 sorties
Radius: 926 km (500 nm)
Endurance: >20 hrs
Max Altitude: 7.6 km (25,000 ft)
Cruise Speed: 120-130 km/hr (65-70 kts)

*Depends on equipage and duration

 Flight Dataa

· Flights / Hours


159 / 1,169


537 / 2,477

Total to Date

1,575 / 4,590

Funding ($M):

RDT&E (Defense-wide)
Procurement (Navy)b





aAs of 30 Sep 96 bIncludes $8 million for U-CARS

Program Status

After a November 1995 return from Albania and support of United Nations operations in Bosnia, Predator AVs incorporated both a SAR sensor (with imagery transmitted through the Ku-band SATCOM link) and initial ice sensing features to enable poor weather operation. Predators redeployed in March 1996 to Taszar, Hungary, supporting NATO operations in Bosnia; return is currently planned for February 1997. Concurrently, other Predators participated in a succession of interoperability demonstrations, specifically with the U.S. Customs Service (Fall, 1995), a Navy carrier battle group (CVBG) (Fall, 1995), and a Navy submarine with SEAL team aboard (Spring, 1996); details are on pages 32-33.

On 30June 1996, Predator completed its 30-month ACTD. On 26July, General Atomics received a $23 million contract for another five AVs and ancillary equipment. On 2September, the Air Force Air Combat Command's 11th Reconnaissance Squadron, Nellis AFB, NV, assumed operational control (OPCON) of assets.

The Predator has proved its ability to provide a significant and urgently needed reconnaissance capability in many mission areas and the continued participation of each Service must be maintained.

Dr. William J. Perry, SecDef
Memo for Secretaries of the Military Departments (et al.)
on Assignment of Service Lead for Operation of the Predator UAV, 9April 1996

 Providing Multi-Role Support to All Operational Echelons

In the Defense Appropriations Act for FY 1997, the Congress transferred Predator's production funding from the Defense-wide Procurement account to the Navy's Procurement account and increased the amount by $50 million to $115.8 million for the year (which included funding for U-CARS integration on Predator and Outrider).


Transition and Acquisition Program Features

Predator constituted a ClassII (weapon/sensor system) ACTD and will enter formal acquisition as an LRIP program. The JROC recommended an initial force of 16 systems (plus attrition spares) (JROCM
010-96), including one system for R&D, or more than 60 AVs, counting the retrofitted ACTD versions. Resource programming to support life-cycle acquisition, operations and support is ongoing and candidate capabilities are listed below. The DoD plans to continue all system development and procurement through the Navy's UAV JPO, while the Air Force manages system operations and maintenance. Predator's LRIP production configuration and longer-term P3I program will be more fully defined in FY 1997.





De-icing system X   Required for reliable all-weather operation
Onboard UHF voice radio X   For BLOS communications with ATC
Improved identification friend or foe (IFF) X   Positive airborne control requirement
Engine upgrade   X Rotax 914 to replace Rotax 912
Heavy fuel engine (HFE)   X Mandatory for a marinized Predator
UAV Common Auto Recovery System (U-CARS)   X Feasibilty study to be completed Dec 96
Engine and propeller quieting   X Exhaust system muffler, variable-pitch prop
Upgraded IR sensor   X Under study for near-term P3I
Moving target indication (MTI)   X Under study for near-term P3I
Improved GPS   X Under study for longer term
SATCOM suite (Trojan Spirit) replacement   X Under study for longer term
Upgraded GCS communications suite   X Under study for longer term
Communications relay   X Under study for longer term
Laser designation/rangefinder   X Under study for longer term
SIGINT payload   X Under study for longer term

The operational capabilities embodied in the Predator UAV system are a significant first step toward the continuous, real-time Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA) required by 21st century joint warfighters. ACC is committed to developing our ability to employ the family of UAVs in that role.

General Richard E. Hawley
Commander, Air Combat Command
August 1996