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Summary

The General Atomics Avenger (formerly Predator C) is a developmental unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) 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 SAR 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.

Nicknames

Predator C

Avenger

Development

http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=defense&id=news/AVENGE041509.xml

New Predator C Hints At Stealth, Weaponry
David A. Fulghum davef@aviationweek.com
Bill Sweetman william_sweetman@aviationweek.com
Apr 15, 2009

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has quietly rolled out its new Avenger unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) - formerly known as the Predator C - and completed its first three flights on April 4, 13 and 14.

While company officials are not calling it a stealthy aircraft, they will admit to a reduced radar signature. The 20-hour-endurance UCAV’s undeniably low-observable design offers clues about how it could be employed.

A weapons bay allows internal carriage of 500-pound bombs with GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions with GPS navigation and laser guidance kits attached. Given the aircraft’s 41-ft length - which will increase by at least two feet in the second test aircraft - the weapons bay appears to be 10-feet long.

The bay doors can be removed to allow installation of a semi-submerged, wide-area surveillance pod. The aircraft is designed to carry about 3,000 pounds of weapons and sensors. For an additional two hours of flying time, fuel tanks also can be installed in the weapons bay.

A long, featureless underside further provides an ideal location for a sensor such as an all-weather, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The wide-area surveillance system - to be provided by the U.S. Air Force - has yet to be defined. It would be carried by a specialized all-reconnaissance version of the Avenger.

The V-tail both deflects radar and shields infrared signature of the aircraft’s 4,800-pound thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada PW545B turbofan. Predator C has two all-flying tail surfaces that each have two servos for flight-control redundancy.

The hump-backed design of the aircraft offers room enough for a serpentine exhaust to prevent radar observation of the turbine. Pratt has been developing an S-shaped exhaust system that both offers protection from radar and cooling to reduce the infrared signature. The engine is expected to provide an airspeed of at least 400 knots, but company officials say envelope expansion tests may prove the speed to be “considerably greater”. The UCAV’s operational altitude would be up to 60,000 feet.

The Avenger’s 17-degree sweep, 66-ft. span wing and tail are all aligned in plan view with one or other of the leading edges. This is the same shaping discipline used on classic stealth designs like the F-22 and B-2.

The cranked trailing edge provides the aerodynamic and structural benefits of a tapered wing and helps shield the engine inlet from radar. Other design elements, from nose to tail, help avoid radar cross-section hot spots that would be caused by a curved side.

The aircraft was designed from its inception so that the wing could be folded at the point where it cranks for storage in hangars or for aircraft carrier operations. The UCAV also comes with a tailhook, which suggests that carrier-related trials are planned.

The inner section of the cranked wing is deep, providing structural strength for carrier landings and generous fuel volume while maintaining a dry, folding outer wing.

Editor’s note: The original version of this story included erroneous dimensions, which have since been corrected.


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Predator C Avenger Makes First Flights
By David A. Fulghum and Bill Sweetman
Apr 17, 2009

A new, reduced-signature, unmanned aircraft\u2014the long-rumored, 20-hr.-endurance, pure-jet Predator C Avenger\u2014has emerged from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems\u2019 workshops after a 3�-year gestation period paced by massive growth in UAV production and the use of unmanned designs in combat.

The UAV\u2019s 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\u2019s 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 weapons bay doors can be removed to allow installation of a semi-submerged, wide-area surveillance pod, says Tom Cassidy, president, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems\u2019 Aircraft Systems Group. Cassidy has earned a unique reputation by using company funds to develop what he believes the military needs rather than chasing Pentagon requirements that shift with disheartening regularity to produce cost increases and production delays. The result is a family of Gnat and Predator designs that are used by all the services and intelligence agencies.

The Predator C, like the B-variants, is designed to carry about 3,000 lb. of weapons and sensors. In a non-stealthy environment, weapons could also be attached externally on the fuselage and wings. For an additional 2 hr. of flying time, fuel tanks can be installed in the weapons bay. Normal fuel storage is split 50/50 between the wings and fuselage.

The Avenger\u2019s electrical power is expected, at least initially, to be less than the 45 kva. available on Predator B variants. A long, featureless underside provides a low-distortion design for carriage of a wide-area surveillance sensor such as an all-weather, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The wide-area surveillance system\u2014to be provided by the Air Force\u2014has yet to be defined. However, it would be carried by a specialized all-reconnaissance version of the Avenger. A Lynx SAR is likely carried in the lower part of the nose. Absent from the prototype is the EO/IR sensor turret used by the Predator family. A retractable installation may have been developed.

The vertically-oriented V-tail both deflects radar and shields the 4,800-lb. thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada\u2019s PW545B engine exhaust\u2019s 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 \u201cconsiderably greater\u201d than that. Its operational altitude is up to 60,000 ft.

The Avenger\u2019s 17-deg. swept wing (66-ft. span) and tail edges are all parallel in plan view with one or the other leading edges. It is the same shaping discipline used on classic stealth designs like the B-22 and B-2. The cranked trailing edge provides the aerodynamic and structural benefits of a tapered wing and helps shield the engine inlet from radar. Canted upper and power body sides meet at a sharp chine line, continuous from nose to tail, thereby avoiding the radar cross-section hot spot caused by a curved side.

The thickness and curvature of the inboard wing are noteworthy, pointing to an effort to achieve laminar flow over as much of the wing as possible. The prototype carries tufts over the left wing/body junction that allow engineers to visualize airflow in that area.

General Atomics Aeronautical\u2019s parent company includes a division that produces materials for controlling radar, optical and infrared signatures. Adjacent to the company\u2019s Rancho Bernardo, Calif., facility are the world\u2019s largest indoor radar cross section testing ranges. Likely challenges would have included building a \u201cbandpass\u201d radome for the satcom antenna above the nose. It must be transparent at the Ku-band used by most airborne satcoms, but opaque at lower frequencies used by fighter and missile radars. Again, that capability mimics the F-22 and F-35.

The aircraft was designed so the wings can be folded for storage in hangars or aircraft carrier operations if a naval customer is found. Cassidy, a retired admiral, has talked about a possible Navy role for Predator C since 2002. The Navy was interested in the Predator B\u2019s capabilities, but didn\u2019t want to introduce any new propeller-driven aircraft onto carrier decks. The UAV also comes with a tailhook, suggesting that carrier-related trials are planned. The inner section of the cranked wing is deep, providing structural strength for carrier landings and generous fuel volume while maintaining a dry, folding outer wing. Right now, the U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force are considered the most likely users.

The Avenger has landing gear from the F-5 aircraft and anti-skid brakes. It uses a laser altimeter and a vertical indicator has been added to the head-up display. At 100 ft. the laser altimeter comes on. If the pilot puts a \u201ccaret\u201d in the middle of the indicator it will keep the aircraft at a proper pitch for the landing and eliminate pilot-induced oscillations caused by the parallax effect between a pilot\u2019s vision from a manned aircraft cockpit and that of the UAV\u2019s onboard visual sensor.

The Avenger made its first flights Apr. 4, 13 and 14 in a test program that is slated to last 2-3 months. With customer funding, in 10-12 months operational aircraft could be rolling out of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems\u2019 new, expanded production facilities in Poway, Calif., that opened four weeks ago, Cassidy says.

Predator A and B production had been occupying the company\u2019s Rancho Bernardo facility, but two factors have left plenty of room for manufacturing the Avenger and what\u2019s being described as a highly modified Predator B-plus design. First, Predator A production is being phased out as more advanced models are fielded. Second, six buildings have been acquired at the new Poway facility with 1.2 million sq. ft. for manufacturing, about three times that at Rancho Bernardo. The research and development facility at Adelanto has also doubled in size. The composite fabrication facility remains in Sabre Springs.

While company officials won\u2019t discuss their investment in the Avenger program, they will say it is about twice what they spent to develop the Predator B, primarily because it took longer.

The piston-engine Predator A (MQ-1) first offered long endurance and a weapons-firing capability. The turboprop Predator B (MQ-9) greatly increased the weapons payload, speed and operational altitude. The Predator C now adds additional speed for quicker response and rapid repositioning for mission flexibility and survivability.

With first flight of the Predator C and plans to start cutting the manned aircraft force structure, opponents are gearing up to object.

In a roundtable for reporters, Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed a vision for a new tactical aircraft force structure that includes a high, medium and low cost and performance mix of aircraft wrapped around the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and armed UAVs like the turboprop-powered Predator B Reaper. However, the Reaper, unlike the manned Raptor and JSF, is not low-observable. In contrast, the Avenger\u2019s signature has been reduced through shaping and elimination of a propeller.

The tactical force structure would be supplemented with F-16Cs, F-15Cs and F-15Es upgraded with active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars that increase radar ranges by 2-3 times and allow detection of small, even stealthy objects including cruise missiles, stealth aircraft and very small ground targets.

Opponents see a threat in the decision by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Cartwright to include armed UAVs within the fighter force structure. Critics view this as a first, false step driven by economic rather than military considerations that will lead to the substitution of \u201cReapers, and later Predator Cs, for F-35 JSFs,\u201d says a long-time fighter pilot, acquisition official and senior Air Force leader.

However, this does overlook a basic planning element in the JSF program from the start: that the stealthy strike aircraft would be pitted\u2014for competitive reasons in later production lots\u2014against unmanned combat aircraft.


http://www.ga-asi.com/news_events/index.php?read=1&id=186

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Apr 20, 2009 GA-ASI Successfully Executes First Flight of Predator C Avenger

Next Generation Aircraft in Predator UAS Series Produced on Company Funds to Speed Delivery of New Capabilities to War Fighter

SAN DIEGO \u2013 20 April 2009 \u2013 General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA\u2011ASI), a leading manufacturer of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), tactical reconnaissance radars, and surveillance systems, today announced the introduction of its next generation aircraft in the extremely successful Predator� UAS series, Predator C Avenger�. The first flight of the new multi-mission jet-powered Avenger occurred on April 4 at the company\u2019s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., with the aircraft landing without any discrepancies and ready to fly again once refueled. Subsequent flights were successfully executed on April 13 and April 14, with the test program now ongoing.

\u201cFollowing 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\u2019s continuing practice of developing and delivering proven unmanned aircraft to military customers,\u201d said Thomas J. Cassidy, Jr., president, Aircraft Systems Group, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. \u201cOur company has been uniquely successful in forecasting military needs and delivering extremely capable unmanned aircraft that are ready for near-term military use. Just as the first two Predator B aircraft were developed and flown on IRAD [Internal Research and Development] funding because we saw the need for this type of capability, likewise, Avenger was developed through foresight and significant company investment provided by our Chairman and CEO, Neal Blue.\u201d

Avenger was designed and developed with the intent of making a UAS that was more survivable in higher threat environments and to provide the U.S. Air Force and other potential customers with an expanded quick-response armed reconnaissance capability. The aircraft will have higher operational and transit speeds than current Predator-series aircraft, resulting in fast response and rapid repositioning for improved mission flexibility and survivability. Wide-area surveillance, armed reconnaissance, border surveillance, time-sensitive strike, and quick response capability missions for use against conventional and asymmetric threats (e.g., terrorists, pirates) are among its key missions.

Avenger\u2019s new capabilities complement the operational flexibility of Predator/MQ-1 Predators and Predator B/MQ-9 Reapers by expanding the operational envelope of this series of aircraft. Predator/MQ-1 provides the high-flight endurance levels required on certain missions; Predator B/MQ-9 features a large weapons carriage capability, coupled with long endurance, as well as maritime surveillance; and now Predator C rounds out the flexibility of these aircraft systems with quick response armed reconnaissance.

Avenger presents a no risk/low-cost procurement option as it employs the same proven materials and avionics as Predator B and is controlled from and fully compatible with the standard GA-ASI Ground Control Stations (GCSs) used to control all Predator-series aircraft currently in use by U.S. and allied military services. The aircraft is slightly larger than PredatorB, incorporates a certified pure jet powerplant (Pratt & Whitney\u2019s PW545B), and can carry the same mix of weapons as Predator B.

With a 41-foot long fuselage and 66-foot wingspan, Avenger is capable of flying at over 400 KTAS and can operate up to 60,000 feet. Aircraft sensors will include a GA-ASI Lynx� Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and various Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) camera systems. A system based on Lockheed Martin\u2019s F-35 FLIR is currently being evaluated, as well as an in-house full-motion video sensor. A pure reconnaissance version will be capable of carrying a wide-area surveillance system internally for special mission applications.

\u201cAvenger further defines the level of technical innovation that American companies are capable of producing, and this kind of company initiative saves the government extensive amounts of money and development time while providing the war fighter with new combat systems quickly,\u201d noted Cassidy. \u201cThis aircraft was designed, developed, and successfully flown while concurrently developing Sky Warrior� for the U.S. Army, adding new capabilities to MQ-9 Reaper for the Air Force, and satisfying high-volume/accelerating orders forPredator-series UAS.\u201d


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Stealthy F-35 Sensor To Fly On Avenger UAV
By Graham Warwick
Sep 18, 2009

Lockheed Martin is working with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems to fly a version of the F-35\u2019s stealthy electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) on the Avenger unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in the latter part of 2010.

Mounted behind faceted sapphire windows, the mid-wave infrared sensor would reduce the swept-wing, jet-powered UAV\u2019s radar signature compared with the conventional external electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) turret on a Predator or Reaper.

General Atomics is developing the Avenger as its candidate for the U.S. Air Force\u2019s pending MQ-X requirement for a follow-on to the company\u2019s MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs, to enter service sometime after 2015.

Lockheed Martin calls its UAV version of the EOTS the Advanced Low-observable Embedded Reconnaissance Targeting (ALERT) system. Integration of the sensor onto the Avenger is being funded internally by the companies.

Trying to make a conventional EO/IR sensor stealthy by mounting it behind a window reduces its performance, the company argues, while the F-35 EOTS has been designed to mount the optics close to the window to maximize aperture.

Lockheed Martin says it is working on the electrical and mechanical interfaces between the ALERT and the Avenger, and has performed a fit check with the UAV\u2019s outer mold line, but aircraft modifications have not yet begun.

The F-35 EOTS, which provides both air-to-ground infrared imaging and air-to-air infrared search-and-target, is in flight-testing on the company\u2019s Sabreliner test bed and will fly on the first mission-system test F-35 late this year.


http://www.ga-asi.com/news_events/index.php?read=1&id=285

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 03, 2010 GA-ASI Introduces Sea Avenger UAS for UCLASS Carrier Operations

Carrier-based Predator C Derivative Offers Navy Low-risk Strike & Surveillance Solution

NAVY LEAGUE SEA AIR SPACE, WASHINGTON \u2013 3 May 2010 \u2013 General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA\u2011ASI), a leading manufacturer of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), tactical reconnaissance radars, and surveillance systems, today introduced Sea AvengerTM, a carrier-based derivative of its Predator� C Avenger� UAS, to fulfill the U.S. Navy\u2019s need for an unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike (UCLASS) system. The company formally proposed Sea Avenger to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) via a Request for Information (RFI) submitted on 30 April.

\u201cSea Avenger fulfills the Navy\u2019s need for a carrier-based unmanned aircraft system that offers long-endurance, proven ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance] and precision-strike capabilities,\u201d said Frank Pace, president, Aircraft Systems Group, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

Like Predator C Avenger, Sea Avenger presents a low-risk, high technology ready procurement option as it leverages more than 18 years of Predator-series UAS development, manufacturing, and system support, along with one million flight hours of operational experience. In addition, many Predator-series elements, components, and subsystems already provide mature, proven, and affordable mission capabilities desired by the Navy for a UCLASS system.

Anticipating a future requirement for a carrier-based UAS, GA-ASI designed specific features into its Predator C Avenger to facilitate subsequent development of an aircraft uniquely suitable for carrier operations that would also integrate seamlessly into the carrier air wing. These include a highly fuel-efficient engine and inlet design, retractable electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor, internal weapons bay, and folding wings. The aircraft\u2019s structure was also designed with the flexibility to accommodate carrier suitable landing gear, tail hook, drag devices, and other provisions for carrier operations.

\u201cSea Avenger is an affordable and transformational technology that will provide commanders with enhanced situational awareness and time-sensitive strike,\u201d noted J. Neal Blue, chairman and CEO, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

Sea Avenger is based upon its predecessor, Predator C Avenger. Predator C is designed to perform high-speed, multi-mission persistent ISR and precision, time-sensitive strike missions over land or sea. The current configuration features a 44-foot long fuselage and 66-foot wingspan, is capable of flying at 400 KTAS for 20 hours, and can operate up to 50,000 feet. Avenger incorporates a pure jet power plant and carries a Lynx� Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), various EO/IR camera systems, and up to 3,000 pounds of internal ordnance, as well as other sensors. The aircraft is based on an open, modular architecture that provides \u201cplug and play\u201d system configuration, configuration management, and significant flexibility for rapid, controlled change, adaptation, and growth. Developed on company funds for near-term military use, Predator C Avenger is successfully continuing through its planned test program, with a second aircraft currently under development and expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The U.S. Navy has experience operating both Predator and Predator B aircraft manufactured by GA-ASI.


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Avenger Redux - Second Predator C Flies
Posted by Graham Warwick at 2/7/2012 11:45 AM CST

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has flown the second jet-powered Predator C, aka Avenger. Tail 2 first flew on Jan 12 at Gray Butte in California and is 4 ft. longer than the first aircraft, to accommodate larger payloads and more fuel.

GA-ASI says the second Avenger “refines the first prototype design to an operational capability” – the Pentagon revealed in December it is buying a single Avenger for deployment to Afghanistan to act as a testbed for next-generation UAS sensors, weapons and operations.

The Pratt & Whitney Canada PW545-powered Avenger is 44 ft. long, with a 66 ft. wingspan, and has a top speed exceeding 400 kt. and endurance of more than 16 hours. The aircraft can carry 3,500lb internally, plus weapons up to 2,000 lb. JDAM class on wing hardpoints, GA-ASI says.

Two more aircraft are under construction, the company says, with Tail 3 to fly by late summer and Tail 4 early in 2013.

Specs

General characteristics

Crew: None (UAV)

Length: 41 ft (12 m)

Wingspan: 66 ft (20 m) sweep angle 17 degrees

Powerplant: 1 x Pratt & Whitney Canada PW545B turbojet, 4,119 lbf (18.32 kN) thrust

Performance

Maximum speed: 460 mph; 740 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

First Flight

2009-04-04

Sources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predator_C