first widely adopted drone aircraft for the U.S. Air Force was the
Predator. The aircraft originally designed to be a pure
reconnaissance vehicle that could fly and loiter in an area for up to
20 hours at altitudes up to 25,000 feet without putting a pilot in
harm's way.Eventually the military got the idea to arm the
Predator with Hellfire missiles so that the aircraft could engage
targets. The Predator has been a major success for the Air Force,
however, the sun
is setting on the drone. The Air Force has purchased its final
batch of 268 Predators from General Atomics with the last one
expected to be delivered by February 2011 reports Wired.As
the Predator drones are removed from service for various reasons,
they will be replaced with a new and more capable drone aircraft
called the Reaper.
The Reaper is a much more capable drone aircraft and was designed for
the start to be able to perform in both surveillance and attack
roles.The Reaper is able to fly at around 50,000 feet and
flies twice as fast as the Predator with a maximum speed of 260 knots
and a cruise speed of 150 to 170 knots. Perhaps the biggest
improvement for the Reaper is in its ability to carry a variety of
weapons. The Reaper will be able to carry the Hellfire AGM-114
missile and GBU-12/GBU-38 precision bombs. The Predator was only
capable of carrying the Hellfire missile. The Reaper also has more
electrical power onboard allowing the aircraft to have more
sophisticated sensors.The Air Force already owns 57 Reaper
drones and wants another 272 of them. How fast the additional Reapers
come into the fold will depend on budgets approved by Congress.
Air Force is also already looking towards the replacement of the
Reaper with a faster aircraft called the Avenger.
The Avenger is jet-powered allowing it to be much faster than the
quote: The Air Force already owns 57 Reaper drones and wants another 272 of them. How fast the additional Reapers come into the fold will depend on budgets approved by Congress.