According to Tom Cassidy, head of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the Air Force has 14 of the company’s MQ-9 Predator B unmanned aerial vehicles under contract. Cassidy told us at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium last week that GAAS could accelerate production—averaging one aircraft every month and delivering a new one to the Air Force every two to three months—if the service wants them that fast. However, the Fiscal 2007 budget would only fund delivery of two of these newer, larger, and more capable UAVs. The B model features an improved sensor suite and the ability to carry up to 16 hellfire missiles (the same capacity as an AH-64 attack helicopter) as well as GBU-12s and -38s.
Unlike nearly every other innovative technology throughout history, Maj. Gen. DeAnna M. Burt believes the space enterprise emerged backward. “Every other domain started with an entrepreneur who built something,” Burt, the special assistant to the Chief of Space Operations, told an audience at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference.