Jet-Powered Predator UAV Unveiled by GA-Aeronautical Systems
San Diego’s General Atomics Aeronautical Systems said it has begun flight testing a jet-powered version of its Predator unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with a stealthier design and with the ability to operate aboard Navy aircraft carriers.
Dubbed the “Avenger,” the jet-powered version of the armed surveillance aircraft can fly as high as 60,000 feet and at speeds of roughly 460 mph (400 knots true air speed), which is almost twice as fast as the turboprop-powered Predator B, which has a top speed of 276 (240 KTAS). The Avenger’s first flight was April 4 at the company’s flight operations facility in Palmdale, CA, north of Los Angeles.
A recent preview on the Ares defense blog describes the Avenger as a “UCAV,” an unmanned combat aerial vehicle, designed with a sleek profile, folding wings, and a tailhook for landings aboard aircraft carriers. That could pose some furrowed eyebrows at Northrop Grumman, which has been developing the competing X-47B Pegasus in San Diego for Navy carrier operations under a Pentagon contract.
Developing unmanned aircraft with its own funding, rather than operating under a government contract, has been a hallmark of GA-Aeronautical Systems under retired Adm. Tom Cassidy. In a statement, Cassidy says, “Our company has been uniquely successful in forecasting military needs and delivering extremely capable aircraft that are ready for near-term military use.”