In 1989, the US Army, Navy and Marines initiated a joint unmanned aerial vehicle program, contracting with Northrop Grumman and Israeli Aircraft Industries to produce the RQ-5A Hunter UAV. The first seven aircraft entered service in 1996.
Hunter was capable of real-time imagery intelligence, artillery adjustment, battle damage assessment, reconnaissance and surveillance, target acquisition and battlefield observation.
After September 11th 2001, The Federal Aviation Administration grounded ALL aviation nationwide, but the Hunter UAV was granted special dispensation and allowed to fly outside of the Special Use Airspace (R2303) in support of the Department of Homeland Security and National Security.
In 2005, the Army upgraded this model to a multi-mission model, the MQ-5B, which featured longer wing span, longer maximum endurance, and higher operating altitude. Its improved avionics and navigation systems enhanced the accuracy of target location as well as the newly added Viper strike munition. The first flight of the MQ-5B was on July 8, 2005, from Libby Army Airfield on Fort Huachuca. An E-Hunter (MQ-5C) has also been developed, with even longer endurance and higher altitude capability.