The Hunter is a large Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and was first introduced in 1996 in limited numbers with the United States Army. The system performed admirably well in support of Operation Allied Force over Kosovo where its real-time imagery and communications proved vital. The system was designed in Israel and was fielded by the government militaries of the United States of America, Belgium and France.
The Hunter design features a distinct twin-boom arrangement and straight edges making it appear very much like the Vietnam-era Rockwell OV-10 Bronco observation two-man aircraft unveiled some decades before (interesting correlation as both conduct the same type of operations to an extent). Another distinct design element is the use of twin engines, one mounted forward and one aft of the fuselage operating in a "push-pull" environment reminiscent of some failed World War 2 aircraft designs. Wings are of a straight monoplane design and mounted to the middle-rear of the fuselage portion. The twin booms connect at rear with a horizontal plane and feature twin vertical tail fins. The undercarriage is static.
The Hunter was born out of a US army need in the late 1980's joint unmanned aerial vehicle program that included the United Navy and Marine branches as well. TRW and Israeli Air Industries were tapped for their design and production of limited-quantity units for operational development beginning with an initial delivery of some seven systems. Like all early UAV systems, the Hunter was initially introduced as an observation / reconnaissance platform providing real-time imagery, target acquisition, artillery adjustment and general surveillance on the modern battlefield. Only later developments of UAVs would yield offensive ordnance and increase the potentiality of UAV systems in general.
The relatively small-sized and ruggedly constructed Hunter can operate from complete or semi-paved surfaces. Rocket assistance (RATO) can further its short take-off and landing capabilities if need be. Standard power is derived from twin Moto-Guzzi 60 horsepower engines. Landing can be equally assisted through the use of arrestor cables. Features of the Hunter UAV include an integrated global positioning system (GPS), forward-looking infrared FLIR, laser designator, VHF/UHF communications and electronic countermeasures. Operation is conducted through a land-based GCS-3000 Ground Control Station (GCS), a vehicle manned by two operators - one controlling flight and the other controlling the payload functions. A Remote Video Terminal (RVT) can operate independently of the GCS or in conjunction with it through a direct link up.
The "Extended" Hunter UAV is nothing more than a high-altitude, longer endurance version of the original Hunter UAV concept. Extended Hunter can traverse the atmosphere at up to 20,000 feet, features a wingspan double the original Hunter and improved range. B-Hunter features an automatic landing system. And is operated by Belgium which purchased six aircraft and two stations in 1998. The Hunter system has seen operational action in Macedonia/Kosovo, where one was reportedly lost to enemy fire within days of deployment. Though in limited use on today's advancing battlefield, the Hunter UAV was recently used to patrol America's southern border with Mexico in 2004.