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new, reduced-signature, unmanned aircraft—the long-rumored, 20-hr.-endurance, pure-jet Predator C Avenger—has emerged from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ workshops after a 3½-year gestation period paced by massive growth in UAV production and the use of unmanned designs in combat.
The UAV’s undeniably stealthed-up exterior offers several clues about how the aircraft could be employed.
A weapons bay allows internal carriage of 500-lb. bombs with GBU-38 JDAM tail kit and laser guidance. Given the aircraft’s 41-ft. length (which will expand by at least 2 ft. in the second test aircraft), the weapons bay appears to be 10 ft. long.
The vertically-oriented V-tail both deflects radar and shields the 4,800-lb. thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PW545B engine exhaust’s infrared signature. Predator C has two all-flying tail surfaces with two servos each for flight-control redundancy. The humpbacked design of the engine compartment offers room enough for a serpentine exhaust that eliminates radar observation of the engine. Pratt & Whitney has been developing an S-shaped exhaust that offers protection from radar observation and cooling to reduce the IR signature. The engine is expected to provide an airspeed of at least 400 kt., but Cassidy says envelope expansion tests may produce speeds “considerably greater” than that. Its operational altitude is up to 60,000 ft.