General Atomics Avenger

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Avenger (Predator C)
Predator-c-avenger-5.jpg
Predator-C Avenger
Role Unmanned combat air vehicle
Manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems
First flight 4 April 2009
Status Operationally Ready[1]
Primary user United States
Number built 3[2]
Unit cost
$12 million to $15 million[3]
Developed from MQ-9 Reaper

The General Atomics Avenger (formerly Predator C) is a developmental unmanned combat air vehicle built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the U.S. military. Its first flight occurred on 4 April 2009.[4][5] Unlike the previous MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper (Predator B) drones, the Avenger is powered by a turbofan engine, and its design includes stealth features such as internal weapons storage, and an S-shaped exhaust for reduced heat and radar signature.[6] The Avenger will support the same weapons as the MQ-9, and carry the Lynx synthetic aperture radar and a version of the F-35 Lightning II's electro-optical targeting system (EOTS), called the Advanced Low-observable Embedded Reconnaissance Targeting (ALERT) system.[7][8] The Avenger will use the same ground support infrastructure as the MQ-1 and MQ-9, including the ground control station and existing communications networks.[4]

Operational history[edit]

Flight testing[edit]

The first flight of the first prototype Avenger occurred on April 4, 2009 at the company’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, California. The aircraft took off and landed without any discrepancies and was ready to fly again once refueled. Following flights were performed successfully on April 13 and 14.[9] The second prototype Avenger performed its first flight on January 12, 2012, meeting all performance objectives and refining the first prototype design to an operational capability. The Tail 2 prototype featured a four foot longer fuselage to accommodate larger payloads and more fuel. This larger Avenger can carry a larger payload of up to 3,500 lb of weapons internally and on its wing hard points.

On February 15, 2012, the Air Force cancelled its MQ-X program, which was supposed to find an aircraft to replace the MQ-9 Reaper. The funds will be invested in developing technology to analyze the data already generated by its UAVs and upgrading current Reapers.[10][11] The Sea Avenger variant is part of the Navy's Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system (UCLASS) program. If it is selected by the Navy, the Air Force may consider buying the ground-based version for service.[12]

On November 15, 2012, the Avenger flew for three hours while being controlled by the General Atomics Advanced Cockpit Ground Control Station (GCS). The Advanced Cockpit GCS has a wrap-around visual display and multi-dimensional moving map to increase situational awareness and reduce pilot workload. The Advanced Cockpit GCS has flown an MQ-1 Predator and is planned to fly an MQ-9 Reaper as part of an Air Force initiative to enable interoperability with all USAF Remote Piloted Aircraft (RPA).[13]

On July 2013, A third Avenger is scheduled to begin flight testing. Assembly of the fourth Avenger is expected to be finished by spring 2014.[14]

Deployment to Afghanistan[edit]

In December 2011, the Air Force announced that it had ordered an Avenger and that it was being deployed to Afghanistan. "This aircraft will be used as a test asset and will provide a significantly increased weapons and sensors payload capacity on an aircraft that will be able to fly to targets much more rapidly than the MQ-9 [Reaper] UAS," the USAF said in an announcement. "Since it has an internal weapons bay and four hardpoints on each wing it will also allow greater flexibility and will accommodate a large selection of next generation sensor and weapons payloads." The aircraft ordered was the original Tail 1 prototype version. This announcement sparked rumors that the aircraft was being deployed to monitor neighboring Iran and Pakistan. These allegations were made because the Avenger is stealthy, while the battlespace over Afghanistan is free of radar guided missiles, as well as any other anti-aircraft weapons. The announcement also came two weeks after the Iran-US RQ-170 incident. The Air Force responded by clarifying that the purchase was initiated in July of that year, well before the incident.[15][16]

With the drawdown of the War in Afghanistan, the U.S. may lose airbases inside the country that are necessary for striking targets in neighboring Pakistan. Plans are being made to relocate drone bases to other countries in Central Asia to avoid needing U.S. military personnel to protect their bases in Afghanistan. Due to the longer distances from potential targets, General Atomics has pitched the Avenger to the Central Intelligence Agency as a better drone for the mission. The jet-powered Avenger can fly 1,800 mi (2,900 km) from its operating base and stay airborne for 18 hours.[17]

Export[edit]

General Atomics has offered the Predator C Avenger to Canada as a contender for its Joint Unmanned Surveillance and Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS) armed UAV project.[18]

Variants[edit]

Sea Avenger[edit]

On 3 May 2010, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) introduced Sea Avenger, a carrier-based derivative of the Predator C Avenger UAS, intended to fulfill the U.S. Navy’s need for an Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance and Strike program (UCLASS). The company formally proposed Sea Avenger to the Naval Air Systems Command via a request for information submitted on 30 April 2010.

The Sea Avenger includes a retractable electro-optical/infrared sensor, internal weapons bay, and folding wings. The aircraft’s structure was designed with the flexibility to accommodate carrier suitable landing gear, tailhook, drag devices, and other provisions for carrier operations.[19]

On February 15, 2011, General Atomics announced that they had successfully completed a key wind tunnel test on a model of the Sea Avenger. The goal of the test was to validate the low-speed characteristics of an updated wing in the approach, launch, and cruise configurations. The advanced design utilizes proprietary wing technology that enables high-speed flight, while also supporting excellent low-speed handling qualities desired for aircraft carrier landings. The tests took 90 hours and were performed over eight days, which were completed ahead of schedule. The wind tunnel test validated the low-speed characteristics of a new wing, resulting in higher endurance and lower approach speeds. The new wing is also designed to increase aircraft dash speeds, decreasing the time to respond to potential threats.[20]

On 14 August 2013, General Atomics was awarded a $15 million contract to develop the airframe of their UCLASS entry. Contracts of the same amount were awarded to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman for their competing designs. A competition for a final airframe design was expected after January 2014.[21]

In April 2014, General Atomics displayed images of the Sea Avenger at the Navy League Sea Air and Space exposition. As requirements for the UCLASS program were altered from a high-end strike aircraft to an ISR machine operating in permissive environments, the Sea Avenger was modified accordingly. It appears to have four external hardpoints and a small weapons bay, a wing-mounted buddy-refueling store to perform as an aerial tanker, and a larger airframe with a larger engine. If Navy requirements favor a UAV optimized for permissive ISR over broadband stealth, the Sea Avenger may better meet them, as it was originally pitched as having a reduced signature to be "stealthier" than other aircraft. Broadband stealth that is effective against low-frequency radar bands like VHF and UHF usually are present in a flying wing design. Sea Avenger stealth capabilities seem to be limited to higher frequencies like C, X, and Ku bands. General Atomics and Boeing are offering UCLASS wing-body-tail concepts optimized for modest threat environments, while Lockheed and Northrop Grumman are going for full broadband stealth flying-wing designs.[22]

Specifications[edit]

Avenger (Tail 1)[edit]

Data from [23]

General characteristics

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 460 mph; 741 km/h (400 kn)
  • Endurance: 20 hours with standard fuel
  • Service ceiling: 60,000 ft (18,288 m) operating altitude

Armament

Avionics

Avenger (Tail 2)[edit]

Data from [24]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2 (ground control)
  • Length: 44 ft (13 m)
  • Wingspan: 66 ft (20 m) sweep angle 17°
  • Max takeoff weight: 18,200 lb (8,255 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 7,900 pounds (3,600 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PW545B turbofan, 4,119 lbf (18.32 kN) thrust

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 460 mph (740 km/h; 400 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 402 mph (349 kn; 647 km/h)
  • Endurance: 18 hours
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,240 m)

Armament

Internal weapons bay with 3,500 pounds (1,600 kg) capacity. 6 external hardpoints. 6,500 pounds (2,900 kg) payload total.

Avionics

See also[edit]

Related development
Related lists

References[edit]

  1. ^ New Predator C “Avenger” Drone Operationally Ready After Testing - Global Aviation Report, February 24, 2014
  2. ^ Third Predator C Avenger Rolls Off Production Line - UAS Vision ,June 25, 2013
  3. ^ More drones, smaller Navy
  4. ^ a b Fulghum, David A.; Sweetman, Bill (April 17, 2009). "Predator C Avenger Makes First Flights". Aviation Week. Retrieved April 18, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Avenger UAV Revealed", Air Force Magazine, June 2009, Volume 92, Number 6, page 14.
  6. ^ New Predator C Hints At Stealth, Weaponry
  7. ^ Stealthy F-35 Sensor To Fly On Avenger UAV
  8. ^ "GA-ASI Successfully Executes First Flight of Predator C Avenger". April 20, 2009. Retrieved April 22, 2009. 
  9. ^ Jet-Powered Predator C Avenger Successfully Executes First Flight - Deagel.com, April 20, 2009
  10. ^ USAF says adios to MQ-X - DoDBuzz.com, February 15, 2012
  11. ^ Reaper Replacement Rescinded - Strategypage.com, March 2, 2012
  12. ^ One of These Bots Will Be the Navy’s Next Killer Drone - Wired.com, March 27, 2013
  13. ^ Advanced Cockpit Ground Control Station Flies Predator C Avenger - General Atomics press release, April 24, 2013
  14. ^ Ready to Go - Air Force Magazine, June 26, 2013
  15. ^ US Air Force orders General Atomics Avenger - Flightglobal.com, December 12, 2011
  16. ^ New Armed Stealth Drone Heads to Afghanistan (And Maybe Iran, Too) - Wired.com, December 13, 2011
  17. ^ New Jet-Powered Drone Can Kill 1,800 Miles From Home Base - Wired.com, 21 February 2014
  18. ^ Canada’s UAV Requirement Prompts New Move by GA-ASI - Ainonline.com, 26 April 2013
  19. ^ "GA-ASI Introduces Sea Avenger UAS for UCLASS Carrier Operations" General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. Accessed May 4, 2010
  20. ^ GA-ASI Completes Key Wind Tunnel Test on Sea Avenger UAS Model - GA-ASI.com, February 15, 2011
  21. ^ US Navy Moves Ahead To Develop Unmanned Carrier Aircraft - Defensenews.com, 14 August 2013
  22. ^ General Atomics Shows Off Company’s UCLASS Option - News.USNI.org, 10 April 2014
  23. ^ http://defense-update.com/products/p/predator_c_avenger_180409.html
  24. ^ Avenger pdf

External links[edit]