General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), tactical reconnaissance radars, and electro-optic surveillance systems, has announced that it is undertaking an Independent Research and Development (IRAD) effort to develop a variant of its Predator® B RPA that is fully compliant with the airworthiness requirements of the U.S. Air Force and anticipated NATO foreign customers, as well as offers enhanced capabilities for integration into domestic and international airspace.
It is envisioned that the system solution will be a multi-nation, certifiable, exportable configuration built upon the company’s Block 5 Predator B aircraft capabilities and Advanced Cockpit Ground Control Station (GCS) layout.
“Predator B is the most cost-effective and best-valued RPA in its class and continues to draw significant interest from our NATO allies,” said Neal Blue, chairman and CEO, GA-ASI. “It is imperative that we ensure airworthiness certification of Predator B both at home and abroad as coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan and nations transition mission focus to protection of the homeland and other civil uses.”
GA-ASI has expanded its relationship with RUAG Aerospace Services GmbH, its German partner, to allow for increased collaboration in defining long-term solutions and enhancements for airworthiness to the NATO Standardization Agreements (STANAGs) and UK Defence Standardizations (DEFSTANs). The two companies have been teamed for the past two years to offer Predator B to meet the surveillance needs of the Federal Republic of Germany, but this is the first formal contract between them. Effective April 1, RUAG has been engaged to provide technical assistance with the analysis, decomposition, and management of airworthiness requirements as they pertain to Predator B RPA airworthiness.
The multi-mission Predator B is a long-endurance, medium-high-altitude RPA that can be used for surveillance, military reconnaissance, and targeting missions. The current aircraft configuration features an extensive payload capacity (850 lb/386 kg internally, 3,000 lb/1361 kg externally), with a maximum gross takeoff weight of 10,500 lb/4763 kg, is powered by a Honeywell turboprop engine, has a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet/15240 meters, and can stay aloft for up to 27 hours.
Predator B is currently operational with the U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force as MQ-9 Reaper and with the Italian Air Force as MQ-9. The aircraft provides unparalleled close air support and persistent situational awareness over land or sea to coalition forces, demonstrating proven NATO interoperability. Some 140 Predator Bs have amassed more than 575,000 flight hours since the RPA’s first flight in 2001.