Larger Jet-Powered Predator Makes First Flight
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) is stepping up promotion of the jet-powered Predator C Avenger UAV, after flying a second, larger version for the first time on January 12. GA-ASI president Frank Pace claims that the stealth-shaped aircraft offers performance, cost, timescale and adaptability “that are unmatched by any other UAS in its class.” The company is pitching the UAV for the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) requirement and for future U.S. Air Force requirements that are to date only loosely defined as the MQ-X. GA-ASI may have already secured a classified contract to deploy a single Predator C to Afghanistan.
The aircraft flown last month may be destined for that deployment, since Pace notes that it “refined the first prototype design to an operational capability.” The fuselage has been lengthened by four feet to 44 feet to increase fuel capacity and provide a larger internal payload bay, now capable of carrying up to 3,500 pounds. Four wing hard points can accept weapons weighing from 500 to 2,000 pounds, such as the GBU-38 JDAM. GA-ASI says that the Predator C can fly at more than 400 knots and has an endurance of more than 16 hours.
A third Predator C will fly by late summer and a fourth by early next year, according to GA-ASI.