Raytheon has sold a Predator Operations Center to the U.S. Air National Guard, which will use it to direct Predator UAV missions. The company is also marketing its Universal Control System (UCS) for the control of UAVs such as the Predator.
UCS is designed to be more user-friendly than the original ground stations supplied by General Atomics, and Raytheon hopes to make a sale soon.
Predator-series UAVs have already suffered a number of accidents. Recently, the UK Royal Air Force crashed one of its newly acquired Reapers in Afghanistan.
Despite questions about the pace and quality of Predator crew training, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has called for more UAVs to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as possible. A Pentagon task force is now working the issue, but one intelligence expert told AIN in Washington that the real problem is lack of connectivity between surveillance systems.
There are already 21 Predator orbits over the Middle East, but they “look through a soda straw and could be more effective if they were properly cued by higher-operating, broad-area reconnaissance systems,” an insider told AIN.