El Salvador introduces first RQ-20 Puma UAV for anti-narcotics operations


The Salvadoran military has expanded its surveillance capabilities by adding four AeroVironment RQ-20 Puma Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The Salvadoran Ministry of Defense officially announced this acquisition.
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The RQ-20 Puma is a compact, battery-operated, manually launched unmanned aircraft system. (Picture source: Salvadorean MoD)


The Salvadoran Defense Minister, Vice Admiral René Merino, during the handover, stated: "We are equipping the Task Force Sumpul, the Tridente Naval Task Force, and the Special Anti-Terrorist Command with four Puma UAVs, protective gear, and accessories for the M-4 rifle." The minister also emphasized that these UAVs would greatly enhance El Salvador's capabilities in the fight against drug trafficking and criminal gangs.

The RQ-20 Puma, a product of the American manufacturer AeroVironment, is a compact, battery-operated, manually launched unmanned aircraft system. Its primary functions include surveillance and intelligence gathering, facilitated by an electro-optical and infrared camera. One of its notable features is its ability to be launched from a ship, making it suitable for maritime applications. The Puma AE comes with a gimbaled payload that offers a 360-degree continuous pan and a tilt range of +10 to -90 degrees.

Each RQ-20 system comprises three aerial vehicles and two ground stations. The Puma UAV is designed to operate in extreme weather conditions, enduring temperatures ranging from -29 to 49 °C and wind speeds up to 25 knots (46 km/h). He has a flight endurance of over 3 hours, with options for smart batteries to support various mission profiles, a powerful and efficient propulsion system, and a reinforced fuselage for improved durability.

The UAV has a maximum speed of 45 mph, a range of over 10 miles without recharging, and a flight duration exceeding two hours. It is equipped with various sensors, including a zoom capability of up to 50 times, enabling live video transmission to its ground station.

The Puma UAV gained recognition in 2008 when the United States Special Operations Command selected it. In March 2012, the U.S. Army commissioned the Puma, designating it as RQ-20A. In April 2012, the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Air Force placed similar orders for the RQ-20A model.

On July 26, 2013, the Puma became one of the first UAVs to receive certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for commercial flights in U.S. airspace.

The war in Ukraine has highlighted the need for various countries to equip themselves with drones or anti-drone solutions. El Salvador is no exception and will utilize its four new RQ-20 Puma drones in the fight against various cartels.