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GA Keeps Fishing With Predator C

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is taking suggestions for how to outfit the latest in its Predator ISR and combat strike aircraft.

The Predator C, aka Avenger, so far is a fleet of one that flew for the first time last March. A second Avenger is now in development and General Atomics is looking to the military customer to tell it what it wants to see in the new system. "The aircraft is not being built to any program requirements," said Frank T. Yakos, business development manager for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. Instead, General Atomics is building the aircraft as "a notional test-bed" that includes what is sees as logical next-generation needs for the unmanned ISR and strike aircraft.

As with the B model, the C will be jet powered, but minus the propeller that on current Predators -- the MQ1 and the MQ9 Reaper -- helps with lift and drive.

"This is a General Atomics notional idea, based on what we perceive [will be required] based on the MQ1 and MQ2 Predator missions, based on the world political situation, and on the possibility that that it will have to operate in contested airspace," he said.

To date General Atomics has completed only one Avenger. It flew last March, he said. The second is now being produced, but Yakos did not know when it would be ready for flight.

As currently designed, the Avenger’s maximum take-off weight is greater than the Reaper’s, 16,000 lbs. versus 10,500. It also carries more fuel, up to 9,000 lbs from 4,000, according to the specs available from General Atomics. Payload capacity also has improved, from the Reaper’s combined internal/external maximums of 3,850 to a combined 6,000 lbs.

As with the Reaper, the Avenger also has a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet. Where the earlier versions of Predator seem to still have the advantage is in the length of time they fly. The specs available from General Atomics says the Avenger’s maximum endurance is 20 hours. That’s 10 hours shorter than the Reaper and only half the flight time of the original MQ1 Predator.

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