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Drones, Spyplanes and Surveillance Aircraft

Drones, Spyplanes and Surveillance Aircraft

Surveillance aircraft are military aircraft used for monitoring enemy activity, usually carrying no armament. This article concentrates on military aircraft used in this role, though a major civilian aviation activity is reconnaissance and ground surveillance for mapping, traffic monitoring, science, and geological survey. In addition, civilian aircraft are used in many countries for border surveillance, fishery patrols or the prevention of smuggling and illegal migration.

A surveillance aircraft does not necessarily require high-performance capability or stealth characteristics. It may in fact be a modified civilian aircraft which has been disguised in order to look harmless. Technically, anything which can fly and make observations (dynamically or via recording equipment/sensors) of visual information or electronic emissions qualifies as a surveillance aircraft.

Such efforts long predate the invention of heavier-than-air flight, with experiments using balloons to provide targeting information for artillery beginning in France in 1794. Continued attempts throughout the 19th Century proved militarily useless, but aerostat-based radar platforms are now in use.

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USAF General Atomics MQ-1B Predator Drone - 11th Reconnaissance Squadron, 432d Air Expeditionary Wing, Creech Air Force Base, Nevada USAF General Atomics MQ-1B Predator Drone - 11th Reconnaissance Squadron, 432d Air Expeditionary Wing, Creech Air Force Base, Nevada (1:72 Scale)

The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) built by General Atomics and used primarily by the United States Air Force (USAF) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

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USAF Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel Drone - 432nd Wing, Creech AFB, Nevada USAF Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel Drone - 432nd Wing, Creech AFB, Nevada (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that Lockheed Martin developed and that the United States Air Force (USAF) operates for the Central Intelligence Agency. The USAF has released few details on the UAV's design or capabilities; defense analysts believe that it is a stealth aircraft fitted with reconnaissance equipment.

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US Navy Boeing EA-18G Growler Electronic Warfare Aircraft - VAQ-138 Rampage, Whidbey Island, WA US Navy Boeing EA-18G Growler Electronic Warfare Aircraft - VAQ-138 Rampage, Whidbey Island, WA (1:100 Scale)

The Boeing EA-18G Growler is an American carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft, a specialized version of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet. The EA-18G will replace the Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowlers in service with the United States Navy.

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IAF General Atomics MQ-1C Predator A+Drone - Aeronautica Militare Italiana 32 Stormo, Amendola AB, Italy, 2008 IAF General Atomics MQ-1C Predator A+ Drone - Aeronautica Militare Italiana 32 Stormo, Amendola AB, Italy, 2008 (1:72 Scale)

The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) built by General Atomics and used primarily by the United States Air Force (USAF) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

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USN Northrop Grumman X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System - Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland USN Northrop Grumman X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System - Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland (1:100 Scale)

The Northrop Grumman X-47B is a demonstration unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) designed for carrier-based operations. Developed by the American defense technology company Northrop Grumman, the X-47 project began as part of DARPA's J-UCAS program, and is now part of the United States Navy's Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) program.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7972, Lt. Col. Raymond E. Ed Yielding and Lt. Col. Joseph T. "JT" Vida, Senior Crown Flight, March 6th, 1990 USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7972, Lt. Col. Raymond E. Ed Yielding and Lt. Col. Joseph T. "JT" Vida, Senior Crown Flight, March 6th, 1990 (1:200 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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USAAF North American LT-6G Texan Tactical Control Aircraft - X-524, "Night Train", 6148 Tactical Control Squadron (Airborne), LTA-542, Korea, 1953 USAAF North American LT-6G Texan Tactical Control Aircraft - X-524, "Night Train", 6148 Tactical Control Squadron (Airborne), LTA-542, Korea, 1953 (1:72 Scale)

The T-6 was a single-engine advanced trainer aircraft designed by North American Aviation, used to train fighter pilots of the United States Army Air Forces, United States Navy, Royal Air Force and other air forces of the British Commonwealth during World War II.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7967, 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, CA, 1997 USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7967, 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, CA, 1997 (1:400 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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RAAF Lockheed F-4-1-LO Lightning Photo Reconnaissance Plane - 1st Photo Reconnaissance Unit, 1943 RAAF Lockheed F-4-1-LO Lightning Photo Reconnaissance Plane - 1st Photo Reconnaissance Unit, 1943 (1:72 Scale)

It was fast, heavily armed and extremely versatile. And many believe the Lockheed P-38 Lightning  to be the finest American fighter of WWII. Its low-drag, aerodynamic shape and heavy weight enabled this twin-engine, twin-boomed aircraft to accelerate to high speeds faster than any previous warplane, making it a potent fighter and a superb fighter-bomber.

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US Navy Grumman F9F-2P Panther Photo Reconnaissance Aircraft - VC-61, PP/154, Look, USS Essex (CV-9), 1951 US Navy Grumman F9F-2P Panther Photo Reconnaissance Aircraft - VC-61, PP/154, "Look", USS Essex (CV-9), 1951 (1:48 Scale)

The Grumman F9F Panther was the manufacturer's first jet fighter and the U.S. Navy's second. The Panther was the most widely used U.S. Navy jet fighter of the Korean War. It flew 78,000 sorties and was responsible for the first air kill by the US Navy in the war - the downing of a North Korean Yakovlev Yak-9 fighter.

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USAF Northrop T-38A Talon Trainer - #65-10429, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, CA, 2011 USAF Northrop T-38A Talon Trainer - #65-10429, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, CA, 2011 (1:72 Scale)

The Northrop T-38 Talon is a two-seat, twin-engine supersonic jet trainer. It was the world's first supersonic trainer and is also the most produced. The T-38 remains in service as of 2013 in air forces throughout the world.

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USN Northrop Grumman X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System USN Northrop Grumman X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (1:72 Scale)

The Northrop Grumman X-47B is a demonstration unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) designed for carrier-based operations. Developed by the American defense technology company Northrop Grumman, the X-47 project began as part of DARPA's J-UCAS program, and is now part of the United States Navy's Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) program.

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RAF De Havilland Mosquito T.111 Photo Reconnaissance Aircraft - No. 58 Squadron, Benson, Oxfordshire, 1946 RAF De Havilland Mosquito T.111 Photo Reconnaissance Aircraft - No. 58 Squadron, Benson, Oxfordshire, 1946 (1:48 Scale)

The "Mossie," as it was known affectionately by its British crews, was both simple in construction and design. It was a twin engine, single boom aircraft that placed the pilot and navigator in a side-by-side sitting configuration. The Mosquito was one of the most cost effective aircraft ever built because it was constructed out of wood.

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USAAF Mosquito PR XVI Fighter-Bomber - 802nd Reconnaissance Group, RAF Watton, England, 1944 USAAF De Havilland Mosquito Mk. XVI Photo Reconnaissance Aircraft - 802nd Reconnaissance Group, RAF Watton, England, 1944 (1:48 Scale)

The "Mossie," as it was known affectionately by its British crews, was both simple in construction and design. It was a twin engine, single boom aircraft that placed the pilot and navigator in a side-by-side sitting configuration. The Mosquito was one of the most cost effective aircraft ever built because it was constructed out of wood.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7972, Lt. Col. Raymond E. Ed Yielding and Lt. Col. Joseph T. "JT" Vida, Senior Crown Flight, March 6th, 1990 USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7972, Lt. Col. Raymond E. Ed Yielding and Lt. Col. Joseph T. "JT" Vida, Senior Crown Flight, March 6th, 1990 (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - "61-7975", Major Terry Pappas and Captain John Manzi, Persian Gulf, 1987 USAF Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - "61-7975", Major Terry Pappas and Captain John Manzi, Persian Gulf, 1987 (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - "61-7975", Major Terry Pappas and Captain John Manzi, Persian Gulf, 1987 [Signature Edition] USAF Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - "61-7975", Major Terry Pappas and Captain John Manzi, Persian Gulf, 1987 [Signature Edition] (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - "61-7976," 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Kadena  AB, Alaska, 1977 USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - "61-7976," 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Kadena AB, Alaska, 1977 (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - "61-7960," 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Kadena AB, Alaska, 1977 USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - "61-7960," 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Kadena AB, Alaska, 1977 (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 17974, Ichi Ban, 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Kadena Air Base, Alaska, 1968 USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 17974, "Ichi Ban", 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Kadena Air Base, Alaska, 1968 (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71B Blackbird Reconnaissance Training Aircraft - 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, CA, 1968 USAF Lockheed SR-71B Blackbird Reconnaissance Training Aircraft - 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, CA, 1968 (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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NASA Lockheed SR-71B Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 831, Edwards AFB, CA, 1999 NASA Lockheed SR-71B Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - "831", Edwards AFB, CA, 1999 (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7967, 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, CA, 1997 USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7967, 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, CA, 1997 (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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USAF/NASA Lockheed YF-12C Interceptor Aircraft - 60-6937, Edwards AFB, CA., 1975 USAF/NASA Lockheed YF-12C Interceptor Aircraft - 60-6937, Edwards AFB, CA., 1975 (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7955, Skunk Works, Edwards AFB, CA., 1985 USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7955, Skunk Works, Edwards AFB, CA., 1985 (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - "Rapid Rabbit," 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Kadena Air Base, 1972 USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - "Rapid Rabbit," 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Kadena Air Base, 1972 (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7962 "Skull & Crossbones", 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Kadena AFB, Japan, Mid 1980's USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7962 "Skull & Crossbones", 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Kadena AFB, Japan, Mid 1980's (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7958 "Ichi Ban", 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, CA, 1990 USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7958 "Ichi Ban", 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, CA, 1990 (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - "Libyan Raider" 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Operation El Dorado Canyon, 1986 USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - "Libyan Raider" 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Operation El Dorado Canyon, 1986 (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7962 "Red 1", 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Kadena AFB, Japan, Mid 1990's USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7962 "Red 1", 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Kadena AFB, Japan, Mid 1990's (1:72 Scale)

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews.

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