The MQ-1 Predator
Before the Reaper, the smaller Predator was the backbone of the U.S. UAV fleet. The 163rd Attack Wing Grizzlies flew the MQ-1B Predator prior to the Reaper introduction. The new MQ-9A was bigger, better, and thus more capable. Aside from size difference, the easiest way to tell the two birds apart is the Predator has a trio of downward-facing vertical stabilizers, whereas the Reaper has a Y-shaped tail, with the V portion on top and a single downward-facing stabilizer. The MQ-1s have been mostly phased out of the U.S. inventory, the exception being the U.S. Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle (the Army’s unique Predator variant).
Early Predators were “slick” (lacking weapons) and only came equipped with the sensor systems. Designated as RQ-1A, they were mostly used for surveillance and intel gathering. As time marched on, the Predators grew some teeth and started flying with air-to-ground AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The MQ-1 carried an MTS-A Multi-Spectral Targeting System, which integrates an infrared sensor, color/monochrome daylight TV camera, image-intensified TV camera, laser designator and laser illuminator. The full-motion video from each of the imaging sensors could be viewed as separate video streams or fused.