The Predator, a growth evolution of the proven GNAT system, uses common avionics and mechanical systems and incorporates a Rotax 4-cylinder engine. Configured with a satellite data link system, Predator has an endurance of 40 hours and is equipped with an EO/IR stabilized gimbal containing two color video cameras and a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera as well as a synthetic aperture radar (SAR).
The Predator has been configured with air-to-air or air-to-ground weapons as well as a laser designator. Since 1995, Predator has logged over 65,000 flight hours, of which over more than half have been during combat area deployments to the Balkans, Southwest Asia, and the Middle East where Predator operates in support of U.S. and NATO forces. Based upon the success of the program, the U.S. Department of Defense transitioned the Predator program to full rate production in August 1997, marking it as the first Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program to be designated an Acquisition Category II Program.
Predators are currently in production for the U.S. and Italian Air Force. Land-based Predators have demonstrated the ability to support maritime forces including carrier battle groups, amphibious ready groups, and submarines. Predator is the only reconnaissance system available in the U.S. inventory that can provide near real-time video imagery day or night in all weather conditions via satellite worldwide - without exposing pilots to combat fire. As the first successful unmanned aircraft surveillance program, Predator provides tactical and strategic intelligence to operational commanders worldwide. In July 1995, Air Combat Command commissioned the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron, the U.S. Air Force’s first operational Predator squadron. The second Predator squadron, the 15th Reconnaissance, was commissioned in August 1997. The third Predator squadron, the 17th Reconnaissance, was commissioned in March 2002.