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.[1][2] 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.[3] 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.[4][5] 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.[1]

Operational History[edit | edit source]

Flight Testing[edit | edit source]

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.[6] 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 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.[7]

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."[8][9]

Deployment to Afghanistan[edit | edit source]

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.[10][11]

Variants[edit | edit source]

Sea Avenger[edit | edit source]

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.[12]

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.[13]

Specifications[edit | edit source]

Avenger (Tail 1)[edit | edit source]

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Avenger (Tail 2)[edit | edit source]

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See also[edit | edit source]

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References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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