“Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” Exhibit Opens at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum April 24

Apr 21, 2008

Starting Thursday April 24, visitors to the National Air and Space Museum will get a glimpse of six aircraft representing a cross section of modern unmanned flight technology in the new “Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” exhibition. UAVs are used by all four military branches for missions ranging from reconnaissance and surveillance to attack and each branch is represented in this exhibit: Predator, DarkStar, X-45A (Air Force); Shadow 200 (Army); Dragon Eye (Marine Corps); and Pioneer (Navy). Likewise, a wide variety of technologies are on display: jets, piston-driven props and electric motors for propulsion; and surveillance radars, precision bombs and missiles for combat use.

“The UAVs are positioned over ‘In Plane View: Abstractions of Flight,’ a photographic exhibition of visually intriguing elements of aircraft and spacecraft,” museum director Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey said. “By installing the two displays together, we hope to suggest parallels between technology, culture and the arts,”

The first true UAVs—aerial vehicles capable of returning to a successful recovery after the prescribed mission—were developed in the late 1950s, but America’s military began looking into the use of unmanned aerial vehicles during World War I. Both the Army and Navy built functional unmanned aircraft before the war ended in November 1918. During World War II, unmanned craft had developed to the point where they could be controlled from a remote location by radio signals, usually sent from another aircraft following behind. Modern UAVs are technologically advanced aircraft but would be incomplete without effective command and control, especially trained support personnel, effective mission-related sensors and particular weapons that enable mission accomplishment.

The following UAVs will be featured in the new exhibition: 

  • General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., MQ-1L Predator A: The Predator is capable of both reconnaissance and attack missions. It has been used in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and other global locations. The U.S. Air Force Predator displayed flew 196 combat missions in the skies of Afghanistan and was one of the first three UAVs to fly operational missions there after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Predator Development Team won the 2002 National Air and Space Museum Trophy for Current Achievement.

  • Lockheed Martin/Boeing RQ-3A DarkStar: The DarkStar was developed by Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and Boeing Defense and Space Group to provide sustained reconnaissance information from anywhere within enemy territory, day or night, in all types of weather.

  • AeroVironment RQ-14A Dragon Eye: In early 2001, the Naval Research Laboratory and the U. S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory designed and built the Dragon Eye reconnaissance mini-UAV. Dragon Eye is a fully autonomous, hand- or bungee-launched UAV designed to provide tactical reconnaissance and surveillance information to field commanders. The Dragon Eye is on display in a case also containing its computer control, eye goggles (to see what the sensors see), a parts-and-tool kit and bungee-cord launching system.

  • Pioneer UAV Inc. (IAI/AAI) RQ-2A Pioneer: The Pioneer performs a wide variety of reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition and battle damage-assessment missions. Pioneer’s electro-optical sensors and infrared camera provide real-time images of the target area to field commanders. The vehicle on display served with the U.S. Navy during the 1991 Gulf War. On one notable mission, a group of Iraqi fighters surrendered to the vehicle as it flew over their heads. Marines were directed to their position, where they then captured the fighters. 

  • AAI Corporation RQ-7A Shadow 200 (Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle): The RQ-7A is a twin-boom pusher design and has non retractable tricycle landing gear for conventional, wheeled takeoff and landing. The RQ-7A also can be launched from a catapult and has a tail hook to catch arresting cables for a shorter landing run. Screamin’ Demon flew with the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division, Stryker Brigade Combat Team No. 2, and the 82nd Airborne Division. Its last combat flight in Iraq took place Sept. 12, 2005, totaling 124 missions and nearly 500 flight hours.

  • Boeing X-45A Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS): The X-45A was the first modern unmanned aerial vehicle designed specifically for combat strike missions. The X-45A first flew in May 2002. Air vehicle No. 1 performed the first autonomous flight of a high-performance, combat-capable UAV; the first weapons release from an autonomous UAV; and, with air vehicle No. 2, the first autonomous multi-vehicle coordinated flight.

This exhibition is made possible though the generosity of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., builder of the Predator UAV.

The National Air and Space Museum building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. The museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Va., near Washington Dulles International Airport. Both facilities are open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (Closed Dec. 25) Admission is free, but there is a $12 fee for parking at the Udvar-Hazy Center.

For more information contact:

Kimberly Kasitz
Public Relations Manager
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

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