General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has unveiled its stealthy Predator C unmanned aerial vehicle, which it dubs Avenger. In a release yesterday, the company said the jet-powered, multi-role UAV, which was built on company funds, flew for the first time April 4 at the company’s flight operations facility in Palmdale, Calif. Subsequent flights occurred April 13-14, with a test program now ongoing. Avenger is the latest offering in the company’s Predator UAV family that includes the Air Force’s MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper (Predator B). It is designed to be more survivable in higher threat environments than its predecessors and provide a quick-response armed reconnaissance capability. It is slightly larger than Reaper and can carry the same mix of sensors and weapons. It carries Pratt & Whitney’s PW545B engine, giving it the ability to fly at more than 400 knots and operate at up to 60,000 feet. Thomas Cassidy Jr., president of the company’s Aircraft Systems Group, said Avenger is a testament to GA-ASI’s ability to forecast military needs and deliver UAVs that are ready for near-term use. News of Avenger’s first flight surfaced earlier this month.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.