The making of a stealth UAV

General Atomics tailors Predator C for long-range strike missions

The next-generation of unmanned aerial vehicles will have stealth attributes and other capabilities that would give them a higher chance of survivability against ground and air threats on long-range strike missions, reports Colin Clark at DOD Buzz.

In future conflicts, UAVs will likely not experience the absence of threat that they now face in Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently, UAVs do not have the maneuverability and stealth attributes that would allow them to survive in contested airspace, according to Air Force officials.

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Industry is well aware of these concerns and is addressing them. General Atomics, for example, is working on a stealthy, jet-powered version of the Predator, said Chris Ames, director of strategic development for General Atomics.

Specifically, the Avenger (formerly Predator C) will have a jet engine’s maneuverability, an air speed of 400 knots, and an ability to stay airborne for 20 hours. It also would be able to carry 3,000 to 6,000 pounds of ordnance, Ames said.

General Atomics is developing such capabilities in anticipation of future requirements, DOD Buzz reports. The San Diego contractor is tracking possible future opportunities for such a UAV with the Navy, Air Force and Missile Defense Agency. Specifically, the company is tracking the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program and also pending Air Force unmanned long-range strike requirements.

Ames believes that domestic and foreign opportunities along these lines will create a significant market opportunity for the company.

The UAVs would not be as stealthy as the F-22, but they would make use of radar-absorbing materials and design modifications to reduce radar cross-section. The plane would be capable of flying above 50,000 where it could perform electronic warfare functions, Ames said.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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