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USAF Evaluates Latest Predator Variant

Predator C 'Avenger' Is Larger, Faster, Stealthier

The Predator, a drone series manufactured by General Atomics, has established a reputation which extends beyond aviation and military circles. The US Air Force has now acquired its first example of the third generation of the UAV, called the Predator C Avenger, for testing. The aircraft reportedly makes another leap in capabilities for speed, stealth and payload.

Pentagon Spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy tells the Los Angeles Times the $15 million armed drone has been acquired solely for testing for now, saying, "There is no intention to deploy the aircraft in the war in Afghanistan at this time."

Phil Finnegan, an aerospace expert with the Teal Group, tells the paper, "As the U.S. looks at threats beyond Iraq and Afghanistan - where it has complete air dominance - it needs aircraft that are going to be stealthier and faster so they won't be shot down by enemy air defense."

Compared to the earlier-generation MQ-9 Reaper drone, also made by General Atomics, the Avenger can carry 2,000-lb. of bombs, four times as much weight, carries them in an internal bay vs. the Reaper's under-wing system for a reduced radar signature, and has a turbofan engine allowing flight at 460 MPH, a huge jump past the Reaper's 276-MPH top end.

David A. Deptula, a retired three-star general who spent his USAF career focused on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, tells the Times the Air Force will evaluate the Avenger for its radar detectability, weapons delivery and overall performance before deciding whether to buy more.

FMI: www.ga-asi.com

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