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Next-generation Avenger   (Source: U.S. Air Force)
Next-generation drone will be used in Iraq and Afghanistan

The possible successor of the U.S. Air Force's MQ-9 Reaper recently made three official flights during testing.  General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the same company that developed the Reaper and MQ-1 Predator, is responsible for developing the Predator C Avenger unmanned aerial vehicle.

The next-generation unmanned aerial vehicle is 41 ft. long and has a 66-foot wingspan, which is slightly bigger than the 36 ft. long Reaper.  Most notably, Avenger is jet-powered, allowing it to travel more than twice the speed of Reaper -- Avenger has flown as fast as 460 mph, while Reaper's top speed is 230 m.p.h.

Similar to Reaper, Avenger has been designed to carry 500-pound live bombs with GPS navigation and laser guidance kits utilized.  Up to 3,000 pounds of weapons and other technology can be carried on the craft.

"Following in the footsteps of the proven Predator B, Avenger adds yet another flexible and multi-mission capability to the Predator UAS series and is a testament to GA-ASI's continuing practice of developing and delivering proven unmanned aircraft to military customers," according to a General Atomics executive.

The Air Force and General Atomics haven't signed an official contract for the development of the Avenger, but it seems rather unlikely the new drone won't be incorporated into the A.F. fleet at some point in the near future.  General Atomics built both the Reaper and Predator without signed agreements from the U.S. government.

Drones have become increasingly important in Iraq and Afghanistan, as they are both cheaper and safer to go on attack and reconnaissance missions.  Furthermore, drones such as Predator are used to help create "patterns-of-life analysis" footage to help monitor individual Iraqis and Afghans who may launch attacks from crowds of civilians.

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Time on Target?
By theoflow on 4/29/2009 1:32:01 PM , Rating: 1
I thought that one of the benefits of having propeller driven UAV's was the fact that they could loiter on station for such a long period of time. Why the need to go 400mph, when your going to be in the same spot for 4+ hours?

I also don't think there will be any mid-air refueling (which they could, and it would a great engineering feet) and how much more will this upgraded model cost?

I can see the need to push technology and make the battlefield less human filled, but shouldn't we be investing that huge defense budget on stuff we need and not want?

RE: Time on Target?
By Mojo the Monkey on 4/29/2009 1:38:24 PM , Rating: 3
I think this UAV is meant for attacks and precision strikes, leaving the loitering and recon to the other UAVs.

RE: Time on Target?
By cliffa3 on 4/29/2009 1:45:19 PM , Rating: 2
Compliment time over target with time to target. You're not necessarily going to have that drone (with full weaps) over a hotspot until it's a hotspot.

This will be used in a quick support role to ground troops and existing UAVs that might not have (or might have already used) their weapons package.

RE: Time on Target?
By hosps on 4/29/2009 1:54:45 PM , Rating: 2
I think this is designed to address the problem of getting a UAV to a hotspot in a timely manner. Current UAVs, while able to sit on a single spot for a long time, are usually pre-planned missions and not fast enough to get to a hotspot in support of realtime/unplanned events.

The other reason for going Jet vs. Prop is that this UAV can go to a higher altitude which makes it harder to detect from the ground.

As for your investment comment, this is a good investment that the warfighter on the ground wants. Much cheaper than putting a Jet in the air or trying to fly a new spy satellite.

RE: Time on Target?
By Suntan on 4/29/2009 3:04:28 PM , Rating: 3
For the same reason that the Airforce has more than one manned aircraft in its arsenal, it is beneficial to have more than one type of UAV.

You’re not going to send an A10 to do an F15s job, and you’re not going to send an F15 to do an A10s job.


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