SAN DIEGO, 20 April 2009.General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA ASI) announced the introduction of its next generation aircraft in the Predator unmanned aerial system (UAS) series, Predator C Avenger. The first flight of the new multi-mission jet-powered Avenger occurred earlier this month with the aircraft landing without any discrepancies and ready to fly again once refueled. A test program is now ongoing.
Avenger presents a no risk/low-cost procurement option as it employs the same proven materials and UAS avionics as Predator B and is controlled from and fully compatible with the standard GA-ASI Ground Control Stations (GCSs) used to control all Predator-series aircraft currently in use by U.S. and allied military services. The aircraft is slightly larger than Predator B, incorporates a certified pure jet powerplant (Pratt & Whitney's PW545B), and can carry the same mix of weapons as Predator B.
Avenger was designed and developed with the intent of making a UAS that was more survivable in higher threat environments and to provide the U.S. Air Force and other potential customers with an expanded quick-response armed reconnaissance capability. The aircraft will have higher operational and transit speeds than current Predator-series aircraft, resulting in fast response and rapid repositioning for improved mission flexibility and survivability. Wide-area surveillance, armed reconnaissance, border surveillance, time-sensitive strike, and quick response capability missions for use against conventional and asymmetric threats (e.g., terrorists, pirates) are among its key missions.
"Following in the footsteps of the proven Predator B, Avenger adds yet another flexible and multi-mission capability to the Predator UAS series" says Thomas J. Cassidy, Jr., president, Aircraft Systems Group, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. "Our company has been uniquely successful in forecasting military needs and delivering extremely capable unmanned aircraft that are ready for near-term military use. Just as the first two Predator B aircraft were developed and flown on IRAD [internal research and development] funding because we saw the need for this type of capability, likewise, Avenger was developed through foresight and significant company investment."
Avenger's new capabilities complement the operational flexibility of Predator/MQ-1 Predators and Predator B/MQ-9 Reapers by expanding the operational envelope of this series of aircraft. Predator/MQ-1 provides the high-flight endurance levels required on certain missions; Predator B/MQ-9 features a large weapons carriage capability, coupled with long endurance, as well as maritime surveillance; and now Predator C rounds out the flexibility of these aircraft systems with quick response armed reconnaissance.
With a 41-foot long fuselage and 66-foot wingspan, Avenger is capable of flying at over 400 KTAS and can operate up to 60,000 feet. Aircraft sensors will include a GA-ASI Lynx® Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and various Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) camera systems. A system based on Lockheed Martin's F-35 FLIR is currently being evaluated, as well as an in-house full-motion video sensor. A pure reconnaissance version will be capable of carrying a wide-area surveillance system internally for special mission applications.