RQ-2 Pioneer
RQ-2 Pioneer
Role Reconnaissance UAV
National origin Israel/United States
Manufacturer AAI Corporation, Israel Aircraft Industries
Introduction 1986
Retired 2007
Number built 175 delivered; 35 in service
Developed into AAI RQ-7 Shadow

The AAI RQ-2 Pioneer was an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was used by the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Army, and deployed at sea and on land from 1986 until 2007. Initially tested aboard USS Iowa, the RQ-2 Pioneer was placed aboard Iowa-class battleships to provide gunnery spotting, its mission evolving into reconnaissance and surveillance, primarily for amphibious forces.

It was developed jointly by AAI Corporation and Israel Aircraft Industries. The program grew out of successful testing and field operation of the Tadiran Mastiff UAV by the American and Israeli militaries.[1]

Essentially, the Pioneer is an upgraded IAI Scout which was re-engined to accommodate a greater payload by request of the US Navy. To accomplish this, the original "Limbach" two-cylinder two-stroke engine was replaced with a Fichtel & Sachs two-cylinder two-stroke. The Limbach motor used a 71 cm propeller from Propeller Engineering and Duplicating, Inc. of San Clemente, California. The newer, more powerful Fichtel & Sachs motor was outfitted with a 74 cm propeller (which spins in the opposite direction) from the Sensenich Propeller Manufacturing Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


An RQ-2B on the tarmac
Crewmen recover an RQ-2 Pioneer aboard USS Iowa (BB-61)

Launched by rocket assist (shipboard), by catapult, or from a runway, the Pioneer recovers into a net (shipboard) or with arresting gear after flying up to five hours with a 75-pound (34 kg) payload. It flies day or night missions with a gimbaled EO/IR sensor, relaying analog video in real time via a C-band line-of-sight (LOS) data link. Since 1991, Pioneer has flown reconnaissance missions during the Persian Gulf, Somalia (UNOSOM II), Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq conflicts. In 2005, the Navy operated two Pioneer systems (one for training) and the Marines operated two, each with five or more aircraft. It is also operated by Israel and the Republic of Singapore Air Force. In 2007 Pioneer was retired by the US Navy and was replaced by the Shadow UAV.

Internationally, Pioneer drones are perhaps most remembered for their role in the 1991 Gulf War, when a Pioneer launched by the Iowa-class battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64) observed Iraqi troops on Failaka Island surrendering shortly after USS Missouri's attack on their trenchlines. When navy officials offered to transfer a Pioneer to the Smithsonian Institution, curators at the National Air and Space Museum specifically asked for the UAV that Iraqi troops surrendered to during the Gulf War.[2]

In the 1991 Gulf War, the US Army operated a UAV Platoon from Ft. Huachuca, Arizona. The UAV Platoon conducted flight surveillance and target acquisition missions from KKMC and later, the unit pushed north (Operation Sand Hawk) where US Army combat engineers built a metal runway for the aircraft to launch and recover.[3]

The "R" is the Department of Defense designation for reconnaissance; "Q" means unmanned aircraft system. The "2" refers to its being the second of a series of purpose-built unmanned reconnaissance aircraft systems.

Specifications (RQ-2)

RQ-2B Pioneer
RQ-2B Pioneer

Data from [citation needed]

General characteristics


Dual Sensor (12DS/POP-200/POP-300)


 United States
 Sri Lanka

Former operators

 United States

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


  1. ^ Laurence R. Newcome (2004). Unmanned Aviation: A Brief History of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. AIAA. p. 96. ISBN 978-1-56347-644-0.
  2. ^ "Pioneer RQ-2A UAV". Collections.nasm.si.edu. Archived from the original on 2 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
  3. ^ "Pioneer Short Range (SR) UAV". fas.org. Retrieved 2021-01-30.
  4. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". m-selig.ae.illinois.edu. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  5. ^ "Pioneer Short Range (SR) UAV".
  6. ^ Thompson, Coleman (2008-08-08). "Fleet Composite Squadron 6 Deactivates". NavNews. United States Navy.
  7. ^ Stegherr, Laura K. (2007-11-08). "UAV DET Launches Final Pioneer Flight". NavNews. United States Navy.