GA-ASI Unveils Stealthy Predator UAV

 - May 18, 2009, 6:23 AM

The stealthy, jet-powered version of the Predator series UAV that was unveiled last month was developed “with significant company investment,” according to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI). Tom Cassidy, president of GA-ASI’s aircraft systems group, again sought to contrast the company’s lean and independent development model with that of the major aerospace companies. Also of note, GA-ASI is developing its own full-motion video (FMV) sensor that might be carried by the new Predator-C, although “a system based on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 FLIR” is also being evaluated. Current Predators use FMV sensors provided by L-3 Wescam or Raytheon.

The Predator-C (aka Avenger) is slightly larger than the turbo-powered Predator-B (aka Reaper). The inlet and the exhaust of the single Pratt & Whitney PW545B are shielded from IR and radar sensors according to classic stealth design principles, and these are also used to align the UAV’s wing and fuselage edges. Weapons such as the GBU-12 laser-guided bomb are carried in an internal payload bay, which can alternatively carry a wide-area surveillance system. But with its large V-tails, the Predator-C cannot be an all-aspect stealth vehicle. However, it is available for near-term deployment, and uses the same ground control stations as the previous Predators.

The Predator-C has been under development for some time, but flew for the first time only on April 4, according to GA-ASI. The top speed is more than 400 knots and the service ceiling is 60,000 feet.