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The Drone Index: General Atomics Predator C Avenger

May 12, 2014
via General Atomics

via General Atomics

The Predator C Avenger is one of the few jet-powered UAVs in existence. It first took to the skies six years ago, in April, 2009.

The Avenger is a heftier Predator B streamlined and improved for a more lethal attack role. This is why it eschews a propeller for a PW545B jet engine from Pratt & Whitney Canada. A new wing design allows it a degree of maneuverability most UAVs don’t possess.

According to General Atomics the Avenger is still undergoing flight tests. At the moment it’s being groomed as a competitor against Northrop Grumman’s X-47B in the US Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Advanced Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) initiative.

The Avenger is a large and powerful bird. A 66 foot wingspan supports a 44 foot long airframe. It’s almost the same size as an F-16 Falcon, but sleeker, much slower, and with a lighter payload.

But the payload is deadly. As the market leader in UAVs General Atomics’ Predator series has become the enduring icon of unmanned warfare. The Avenger capitalizes on the success of the original Predator with six external hard points designed to launch either Hellfire missiles or JDAM bombs. Its ordnance capacity alone reaches 6,500 lbs and it can takeoff weighing 18,500 lbs.

The usual bells and whistles apply to the Avenger as well. General Atomics lists four subsystems as part of its avionics kit, including the Lynx multi-mode radar, an unspecified communications relay, and a SIGINT plus IR combination for tracking its objectives. Although General Atomics touts its “reduced detection features” the Avenger isn’t a stealth aircraft.

Owing to its power plant and engine, the Avenger’s ceiling exceeds 50,000 feet and its maximum speed is 740 km/h or 460 mi/h. Its single drawback is its limited flight hours compared to other UAVs like the Super Heron; the Avenger manages just 18 hours of continuous flight.

Its manufacturer, General Atomics, is a San Diego based conglomerate specializing in industrial technology, magnetic rail transports, and nuclear power.

Founded in 1955 by US Air Force veterans Linden Stanley Blue and James Neil Blue, the current chairman, General Atomics has a long history of defense contracting. Its popular UAVs–often designated as UAS’–are tested at an isolated air strip in Gray Butte, Arizona.

While Predator UAVs are recognized around the world as terrorist hunters, export restrictions mean they aren’t sold to other countries unless these are US allies, like the UK or Saudi Arabia.

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