The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which the United States Air Force (USAF) describes as a MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) UAV system. It can serve in a reconnaissance and forward observation role, and can also fire two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles at identified targets. The aircraft, in use since 1995, has seen combat over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Serbia, 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), and a Predator primary satellite link communication suite. The U.S. Air Force considers the Predator unmanned aircraft system (UAS) a "Tier II" vehicle.The Predator system was initially designated the RQ-1 Predator. The "R" is the Department of Defense designation for reconnaissance and the "Q" refers to an unmanned aircraft system. The "1" describes it as being the first of a series of aircraft systems built for unmanned reconnaissance. 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 2005, the USAF officially changed the designation to MQ-1 (the "M" designates multi-role) to reflect its growing use as an armed aircraft.
The RQ-1 Predator drone became the primary unmanned aerial vehicle used for offensive operations in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas. Its endurance is such that it can fly 400 nautical miles to a target, loiter overhead for 14 hours, then return to its base. US generals testifying before the United States Congress in November-December 2009 about the new Afghanistan strategy declined to discuss the issue of Predator-launched missile strikes in public. The program was supposed to be classified. They discussed their appreciation for the intelligence and reconnaissance-gathering abilities of UAVs