General Atomics Avenger

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Introduction

Role Unmanned combat air vehicle
Manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems
First flight 4 April 2009
Unit cost $12 million to $15 million
Developed from MQ-9 Reaper

Predator C Avenger® UAS

As with Predator B, Predator C Avenger was developed through the foresight and funding of GA-ASI. Its unique design, reduced signature, and speed increases its survivability in higher threat environments and provides potential customers with an expanded quick-response armed reconnaissance capability. The first flight of Predator C occurred in April 2009. The aircraft is currently in an expanded flight test program.

The high-speed, multi-mission Avenger is a long-endurance, medium-to-high-altitude Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) that can perform wide-area surveillance, time-sensitive strike missions over land or sea, and a host of other challenging military missions. The aircraft has much higher operational and transit speeds than current Predator-series aircraft, resulting in quick response and rapid repositioning for improved mission flexibility and survivability.

Avenger is a highly advanced, next-generation UAS. The jet-powered Predator C is equipped with a Pratt and Whitney PW545B turbofan engine capable of producing 4,800 lb installed thrust. The engine is designed for greater fuel economy and features class-leading fuel consumption components. Avenger can operate at speeds up to 400 KTAS, a maximum altitude of 50,000 ft, and 18 hours endurance. Its significant payload capacity enables it to carry multiple sensors, while its internal weapons bay can house 3,500 lb of precision munitions.

The next-generation Avenger employs the same materials and avionics as Predator B and is likewise controlled from and fully interoperable with, GA-ASI Ground Control Stations (GCS) used for operating Predator-series aircraft. Avenger’s low cost and advanced capabilities make it the optimum choice for employment in “swarm” tactics where affordable quantities count in a successful outcome.

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.

Features:

Jet performance and reliability
Reduced detection features
Internal stores carriage
Multiple payload capacity
Retractable EO/IR gimbal
Triple-redundant avionics
Dual-redundant flight controls
Six external hard points
Compatible with all GA-ASI GCS
C-5/C-17 transportable (or self-deploy)

Operational history

Flight testing

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 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. This led to taking the Avenger into the role of “next generation Reaper.”

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.

Variants

Sea Avenger

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 airborne surveillance and strike (UCLASS) system. 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.

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.

Avenger (Tail 1)

General characteristics
Crew: 2 (ground control)
Length: 41 ft (12 m)
Wingspan: 66 ft (20 m) sweep angle 17°
Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PW545B turbofan, 4,119 lbf (18.32 kN) thrust
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
Internal weapons bay, 3,000 pounds (1,400 kg) capacity. Capable of carrying AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, GBU-24 Paveway III bombs, and GBU-31 and GBU-38 JDAMs.
Avionics
Lynx Synthetic Aperture Radar
AESA Wide-area surveillance sensor

Avenger (Tail 2)

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.
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
Avionics
Lynx Synthetic Aperture Radar
AESA Wide-area surveillance sensor

Specs

ModelLength
(m)
Wingspan
(m)
Height
(m)
Max. Takeoff Weight
(kg)
Max Speed
(km/h)
Range
(km)
Endurance
(hours)
Ceiling
(m)
Payload
(kg)
Avenger12.520.12725774020182881360
Avenger1.4731.8420.51.64.5

Manufacturer
CountryNameHeadquartersURL
USAGeneral Atomics Aeronautical SystemsSan Diego, Californiahttp://www.ga-asi.com/