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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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RE: A slow march to somewhere
By BruceLeet on 4/29/2009 3:34:46 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget who the U.S. is using these UAVs against, they are not using it against a country with an airforce. The people its being used against can't shoot these things down.

Any airforce can shoot these things down. Until there's an "E.D.I - UCAV" as I'm sure is what you were thinking about when you posted then you can be worried.

I'm sure there will never be a 'mechanized battlefield', at least in our lifetime. And if there ever will be which I doubt, we'll all be long gone before then with no worries.

RE: A slow march to somewhere
By FPP on 4/29/2009 4:09:13 PM , Rating: 2
Correct. People read this ans conclude that UACV's are on par with manned planes, when they are really far more vulnerable by any developed nation. The secure satellite links required could be compromised and any credible air force could severely hamper their use. Nonetheless, these will morph, over time, into formidable weapons and the cheaper they get, the more they will proliferate.

RE: A slow march to somewhere
By elgoliath on 4/30/2009 4:45:11 PM , Rating: 2
I'd say they are better than manned airplanes to a point. A manned plane is in part a hindrance due to the fact it has a person onboard and is thus limited in what it can do in regards to aerobatics and it has to compensate for the weight/mass of the pilot, his gear and controls.

An unmanned plane has no such limitations.

RE: A slow march to somewhere
By FPP on 5/1/2009 5:43:44 PM , Rating: 2
Sure, until you reach a tech-savvy enemy who will jam it's satellite links, and compromise it's sensors. This is what the Chinese are spending their defense dollars on i.e. ASAT weapons, space interdiction, all in an effort to whack our command and control cpability.

Manned planes have a person who can improvise and adapt and have fewer limitations when sensor tech goes awry. They can bring the vehicle back along with the lesson and further adapt.

That being the case, I'd suggest you need both.

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