A solicitation issued last week for a new unmanned aerial vehicle in the Predator class is not so much aimed at finding a next-generation version of the Predator, but at locating anyone else who would be willing to build vehicles like it, says Lt. Gen. Donald Hoffman, USAF’s military acquisition chief. He said Friday that the Air Force wants to crank out Predators faster than General Atomics Aeronautical Systems can make them. The service asked some of the big aerospace companies to license-build Predator or come up with something similar, but so far they have declined, saying that the systems aren’t expensive enough to warrant their investment, especially if they’re competing on price with a small, low-overhead company like General Atomics. The newest General Atomics UAV, the MQ-9 Reaper, costs about $10 million apiece.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.