The drone (UAV) technology coming into our armed forces nowadays is mind-blowing.
This Air Force STEALTH UAV is no exception.
Check out this footage and description below, and let us know what you think!
The General Atomics Avenger (formerly Predator C) is a developmental unmanned combat air vehicle built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the United States military. Its first flight occurred on 4 April 2009.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. A third and fourth model are being produced, with Tail 3 expected to fly by late summer 2012 and Tail 4 by early 2013.
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. 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.
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).
Deployment to Afghanistan
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.
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.
- Internal weapons bay with 3,500 pounds (1,600 kg) capacity. 6 external hardpoints. 6,500 pounds (2,900 kg) payload total.
- AGM-114P Hellfire missiles
- GBU-39 SDB – 250 lb bombs
- GBU-12 Paveway II, GBU-38 JDAM – 500 lb bombs
- GBU-16 Paveway II, GBU-32 JDAM – 1000 lb bombs
- GBU-31 JDAM – 2000 lb bombs
- Lynx Synthetic Aperture Radar
- AESA Wide-area surveillance sensor