The RQ-5 Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was originally intended to serve as the United States Army's Short Range UAV system for division and corps commanders. It took off and landed (using arresting gear) on runways. It used a gimbaled EO/IR sensor to relay its video in real time via a second airborne Hunter over a C-band line-of-sight data link. The RQ-5 is based on the Hunter UAV that was developed by Israel Aircraft Industries.
The Hunter was deployed in 1999 to Kosovo to support NATO operations. Although production was cancelled in 1996, seven low rate initial production (LRIP) systems of eight aircraft each were acquired, four of which remained in service: one for training and three for doctrine development and exercise and contingency support. Hunter was to be replaced by the RQ-7 Shadow.
The Army's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training Battalion at Fort Huachuca, Arizona trains soldiers and civilians in the operation and maintenance of the Hunter UAV.
In 2004, the United States Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection Bureau, Air and Marine Office utilized the Hunter under a trial program for border patrol duties. During this program, the Hunter flew 329 flight hours, resulting in 556 detections.
A version armed with the Northrop Grumman GBU-44/B Viper Strike weapon system is known as the MQ-5A/B.
The MQ-5B version of the aircraft has significant changes from upgraded heavy fuel engines HFE, to an upgraded avionics suite utilizing a triple redundant navigation system. The MQ-5B Has been used extensivley in Iraq and Afghanistan since its introduction in 2005. This variant of the aircraft is also compatible with a various number of additional payloads, to include a comms relay package and various SIGNIT packages.
In 1998 the Belgian Air Force purchased three B-Hunter UAV-systems, each consisting of 6 aircraft and two ground control stations.
The Philippine Air Force acquired two RQ-5 Hunters from U.S Army as a part of the Modernization Plan. It will be used against counter-insurgency plans in the Philippines.
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