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Predator C Avenger Makes First Flights 304

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the video-game-warfare dept.
stoolpigeon writes "General Atomics' new unmanned combat aerial vehicle, the Predator C Avenger, has been making test flights. This new Predator has a stealthy design, 20-hour endurance, is jet powered and has an internal weapons bay. A number of photos have just become available. 'The aircraft was designed so the wings can be folded for storage in hangars or aircraft carrier operations if a naval customer is found. Cassidy, a retired admiral, has talked about a possible Navy role for Predator C since 2002. The Navy was interested in the Predator B's capabilities, but didn't want to introduce any new propeller-driven aircraft onto carrier decks. The UAV also comes with a tailhook, suggesting that carrier-related trials are planned. The inner section of the cranked wing is deep, providing structural strength for carrier landings and generous fuel volume while maintaining a dry, folding outer wing. Right now, the US Air Force and Royal Air Force are considered the most likely users.'"
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Predator C Avenger Makes First Flights

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  • A new (Score:3, Funny)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:19PM (#27620941) Homepage Journal

    C compiler?

    what?

    • Re:A new (Score:5, Funny)

      by Darkness404 (1287218) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:32PM (#27621093)
      Yes, rather than simply returning errors, this one shoots you whenever you make them.
      • Would this be part of the movement to return to natural selection? If so I know a bunch of classmates I'd like to have test that feature first...
    • Re:A new (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:09PM (#27621535)

      C compiler?

      what?

      Nope. Disassembler.

  • F-22 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by p51d007 (656414) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:19PM (#27620943)
    Possibly part of the reason they want to cancel the F-22. Yes, I think UAV's will eventually be the planes of the future, but you still need manned aircraft for a while. With a UAV, you have no environmental system for a pilot, plane can out turn (G's) one with a pilot, and most importantly, you don't put the pilots life at risk.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Yep, tactical and safety are far superiour with UAVs.

      10 years, you won't need fighter pilots anymore.
      To which I say, good.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by peragrin (659227)

        UAV's are awesome right up until your enemy decides that it is easier to just jam all available frequencies while launching their attacks. Frequency hopping will help but if you start losing even momentarily control your weapons start falling off target and aircraft can be dangerously uncontrollable.

        personally I am betting china already has or is currently working on a method of disrupting GPS signals. Even forcing an error rate of a single percentage point is enough to render it weak for smart bombs.

        pilo

        • autonomous craft will take care of that problem. There are already autonomous robot guns deployed around the dmz in Korea. Eventually humans wont be able to keep up with the speed of the machines and they'll need to be able to act independently in order to survive.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by geekoid (135745)

          What do you think happens now if your enemy could 'start jamming all frequencys'?
          The plane become useless.
          Fortunatly, that's not a practical scenario.

          These plane can fly themselves.

          You are really thinking about UAV's 15-20 years ago.

          All the problems you talk about have pretty much been solved.

        • Re:F-22 (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hazem (472289) on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:24PM (#27621681) Journal

          UAV's are awesome right up until your enemy decides that it is easier to just jam all available frequencies while launching their attacks. Frequency hopping will help but if you start losing even momentarily control your weapons start falling off target and aircraft can be dangerously uncontrollable.

          The problem with jamming is it's really hard to hide a jammer (basically a broad-spectrum transmitter) from systems designed to locate transmitters. We already have aircraft designed to locate and take out radar systems http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EF-111A_Raven [wikipedia.org]. This shouldn't be too hard to adapt for jammers as well. Maybe those could still be flown by human pilots.

          And as the AUVs become even more autonomous, the need for high bandwidth communication will diminish, making jamming even less of a problem.

          But even if you do start losing AUVs fast, they're much easier to replace than planes with pilots.

          • Re:F-22 (Score:5, Informative)

            by Martin Blank (154261) on Friday April 17, 2009 @08:29PM (#27622323) Journal

            The Ravens were retired a decade ago, and were not capable of taking out radars, but instead just blinding them. The Navy/Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler now provides most of those duties for the entire military. Unlike the Raven, the Prowler is capable of carrying anti-radiation missiles and actually striking radar sources. The Prowler is to be replaced by the EA-18 Growler (an off-shoot of the F/A-18F Super Hornet) beginning this year.

    • Re:F-22 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by meringuoid (568297) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:28PM (#27621051)
      Yes, I think UAV's will eventually be the planes of the future, but you still need manned aircraft for a while. With a UAV, you have no environmental system for a pilot, plane can out turn (G's) one with a pilot, and most importantly, you don't put the pilots life at risk.

      I can't imagine why anybody would build another fighter jet after the F-22. I mean, yes, in terms of performance and stealth and all that it's every flyboy's wet dream. But the Battle of Britain was seventy years ago, and the days of heroic pilots taking each other on in exciting single combat are long gone. Planes now are just missile launch platforms, and the contest between them mostly a matter of getting the first radar lock and then letting rip; is it not therefore better to use cheap mass-produced drones for that task, rather than risking some technological masterwork and the colossal ego behind the stick over hostile territory?

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "most importantly, you don't put the pilots life at risk."

      Pilots are willing to accept risk, but their losses are visible and politically damaging.

      UAV losses don't matter much, and unlike pilots, UAVs don't get tired. A fighter pilot would be dangerously exhausted flying loitering missions that are routine for UAVs.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by stoolpigeon (454276) *

        Pilots might be willing to take the risk, but the loss is not only visible and politically damaging, but expensive. Pilots are the cream of the crop and it takes a long time to train them.

        Training UAV pilots takes much less time and is much less expensive. I've read about high school drop-outs that picked up their ged and are now top notch uav pilots for the army.

        I think robots are going to change the world in many, many ways. I think UAVs will also start to be used more and more by polic

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by PachmanP (881352)

          Training UAV pilots takes much less time and is much less expensive. I've read about high school drop-outs that picked up their ged and are now top notch uav pilots for the army.

          There's a whole generation that has been raised training to fly UAV's! I mean I'm kinda surprised that the USAF hasn't released an America's Army type game that's a thinly disguised UAV sim.

    • Possibly part of the reason they want to cancel the F-22. Yes, I think UAV's will eventually be the planes of the future, but you still need manned aircraft for a while. With a UAV, you have no environmental system for a pilot, plane can out turn (G's) one with a pilot, and most importantly, you don't put the pilots life at risk.

      That makes sense but if that was the real reason for the proposed cancellation of the F-22, you'd think the J-UCAS program [darpa.mil] would not have been canceled (for the most part). I honestly doubt those in Congress have any clue about what these systems do. I used to work in defense and it is true that there is a ton of waste but the main reason for that is that the military customer never gives a good set of requirements and they constantly change what they want over and over. Then the contractor gets the blame w

    • That's what the F-35 is for (still needing manned aircraft for awhile). The F-22s the US has will keep giving it an edge against the countries who are sold F-35s (not to mention the export version will be somewhat stripped down, of course). There's really no need for more F-22s, UAVs or no.

  • General Atomics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crumbz (41803) <<remove_spam>jus ... o spam>gmail.com> on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:23PM (#27620993) Homepage

    I just love that name for a defense contractor. Would fit right in the Fallout universe.

  • by DirtyCanuck (1529753) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:24PM (#27621001)
    Computer error not human. Perfect now NOBODY is to blame.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by darkmeridian (119044)

      A man in the loop makes the kill shot decision. Did you watch the ending of Syriana? Yeah. Like that. These drones are not flying around doing their own thing.

  • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:25PM (#27621009)
    There must be a lot of software written for systems like the Predator C Avenger. Are there any readers here who work on weapons systems like this? How did you decide to devote the best years of your life to creating weapons with this degree of lethality? Do you trust your customers to use them in morally just ways?

    I'm curious because when I was initially ready for high tech employment, I made a conscious decision to not directly contribute to weapons related work. In the 80's, this took away a significant number of prospective employers. Now it is more than 20 years later and I am glad I made that choice.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jstults (1406161)
      A "grossly obvious fact" for your consideration: "Those who 'abjure' violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf." http://www.george-orwell.org/Notes_on_Nationalism/0.html [george-orwell.org]
      • I did not say this was an easy thing to ponder. I am quite aware that my current and enjoyable way of life is made possible by the wars of the past. However, I just could not make myself use my best abilities to create weapons and then hand those weapons over the people I do not trust. I probably sound sanctimonious. I would still like to hear from a weapons maker here.
        • by rts008 (812749) on Friday April 17, 2009 @10:47PM (#27623205) Journal

          I lose no sleep over it.
          However I could not work for the auto industry, which is responsible for 102 deaths per day in the USA.(2008)

          On average, automobiles have been responsible [wikipedia.org] for 44,000 deaths per year for the past 34 years for a total of 1,491,922 deaths since 1974 in the USA.

          One and a half million.

          That's more than twice the number of USA citizens killed than all of the wars/conflicts we have been in since joining into World War 1.

          In one third the time[34 years], automobiles have killed twice as many USA citizens as 92** years of war.

          If you think I'm just pulling numbers out of my ass, I did check. You can do your own research if you care, but here is the bulk of numbers(they are all US deaths for that conflict, not just soldiers, but includes civilians):

          WW1= 117,465
          WW2= 418,500
          Korea= 35,516
          Vietnam= 58,159
          Gulf War= 279(half-134 were accidents)
          Afghanistan= 636
          Iraq War= 4,522(includes 249 contractors?)
          Total= 635,437
          (I did not bother with our little field trips to Panama and Grenada)

          Skip the argument that cars were not deliberately designed as weapons platforms like the Predator C is. It does not change the facts that cars easily kill more Americans than wars do. The numbers don't lie: 34 years of cars= 1,491,922 dead Americans, versus 635,437 from 92 years of war.

          **Today is the anniversary of US Congress' voting in Declaration of War- April 17, 1917

    • "cryfreedomlove (929828)" LOL!

      Nothing wrong with making weapons.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Easy. the better a weapon like this is, the fewer people get killed.

      Better to hit and kill the target quickly and with as little collateral damage as possible?

      Are you really good at at software? Maybe more people died then needed to becasue you decided not to help?

      Weaponeers save lives.

      • Easy. the better a weapon like this is, the fewer people get killed.

        Isn't that somewhat naive? All a better weapon like this does is kill people more efficiently.
        That says nothing about the quantity of those that die.

    • Does your company count major defense contractors such as GE as a client? Do you work for a cell phone company that makes radiation-spewing devices that give people brain cancer? Do you work for a car manufacturer that makes cars that pollute and run people over? Do you work for a company that makes computers, which get people addicted and detract from human interaction?

      You can play this moral-outrage game with anyone.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:30PM (#27621067)

    I hear the Predator C++ has a whole new class structures that have all new functions.

  • Whats up? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anachragnome (1008495) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:44PM (#27621219)

    Why does the Predator get all the attention?

    Pretty nifty drone Helo in the last image of the series, the MQ-8B Fire Scout.

  • these to the coast of Somalia? I know they wouldn't be perfect but they may help stop some of the pirates. At the very least spot them ahead of time giving ships a little more time to get to safety.
    • I think something similar is already being done or in the works to help give ships more warning of incoming vessels that might be hostile.

    • How about the "not my f'ing job" reason.

      I'm not being trollish to you personally, but as a US citizen I'd like to see if someone, *anyone* will take up this role of protecting a shipping route on the exact opposite side of the Earth we're on, where we have very few shipping interests.

      Europe, a lot of your goods go through the gulf of Aden... you're on deck. Let's have you dedicate some of that wonderful health care money to defending shipping interests so maybe our citizens can go to the doctor eve
    • by Octorian (14086)

      The problem off the coast of Somalia is political squabbling over responsibility and jurisdiction. Any major Navy/Marine force has the capability to end the problem. They just need to be given the marching orders and rules of engagement that allow them to do it.

      Heck, the US Navy and USMC actually has done this before. Of course it was about 200 years ago, and Pres. Jefferson was making policy.

      • by demonbug (309515)

        Getting increasingly off-topic here, but why should the US Navy deploy, except to protect US interests (as they did when a US-flagged ship was taken)?
        Personally, I think it is the responsibility of the nation of registration to protect shipping operating under their flag. I'd just love to see the Panamanian and Liberian navies take care of this problem. Not likely. Maybe shipping companies should reconsider those flags of convenience they operate under. Shipping companies want to avoid the higher safety sta

        • by Xest (935314)

          I'd argue it's the price you pay for being the world's number one naval power. I'm British and you have to realise that back when Britain was the world's number one naval power for 400 odd years it was up to us too to patrol the seas dealing with both piracy and and even slave ships at the back end of our period of naval domination.

          Part of it is self interest - do you want to stay the world's number one naval power? Part of it is the responsibility that comes with that power. You do it because you can help.

  • With a name like "General Atomic Predator C Avenger", I was expecting more.

    Unamnned? Meh.
    Looks lame? Meh.

    Meh.

  • Nice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShooterNeo (555040) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:55PM (#27621371)

    One very interesting thing is that General Atomics (the manufacturer of the predator) doesn't ask the Pentagon what they want. It instead makes an aircraft that is a good price/performance ratio and doesn't suck, and then offers it "as is" to the Pentagon.

    This has worked incredibly well. Design decisions aren't subject to group-think or politics, and GA doesn't have to load the aircraft down with overpriced or unreliable technology in order to add some useless feature.

    I think the Predator C is the culmination of this. It took them 3 years to make a working stealth aircraft, and the article states that they could have it fighting in just 1 more. That's a massive accomplishment.

    I think that real world performance will eventually put drones so far into the lead that the air force cancels the buy on the F-35. Stealth technology doesn't work at all if several phased array radars in different locations are coordinating their search patterns.

    Furthermore, a drone doesn't have to win 1 on 1. Dollar for dollar, even this predator C is probably be about 3 to 5 times cheaper than a high end fighter aircraft. I wouldn't bet on a manned aircraft facing down 5 drones armed with good missiles.

    • Watch this video about the F-35 EO DAS [youtube.com] and you may find yourself wondering as I did, why do they need a pilot? I especially like this line, "With DAS, maneuverability is irrelevant."

  • by copponex (13876) on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:06PM (#27621499) Homepage

    The previous Predators cost 9 million for the aircraft itself, and another 20 to 30 million for the controlling systems, from what I could read. It can carry 14 hellfire missiles, which are $25,000 a piece. I think we're spending 3 billion per year just on the aircraft acquisition.

    So, every day, we send out these 10 million dollar drones, which cost a few thousand per hour to operate, with $350,000 of ammunition. 25% of these aircraft have been lost in operations. Meanwhile, $75,000 would build a school, supply it, and provide money for staff for five years in Afghanistan.

    So when you're trying to prevent a young muslim from becoming a radical, what's the better option - allowing him the chance to have an education, or blowing up his brother's wedding party and then air dropping him some pudding cups with little American flags on them?

    The fact that people keep choosing the second option astonishes me.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by maxume (22995)

      Is it either/or?

    • by c6gunner (950153)

      Meanwhile, $75,000 would build a school, supply it, and provide money for staff for five years in Afghanistan.

      And $200 in the hands of the Taliban would demolish it.

      So when you're trying to prevent a young muslim from becoming a radical, what's the better option - allowing him the chance to have an education, or blowing up his brother's wedding party and then air dropping him some pudding cups with little American flags on them?

      False dichotomy - the third option is blowing up the people who are trying to ra

      • Yes, I presented a false dichotomy. There are many choices in between.

        Unfortunately, you are more likely to radicalize him with the accidental death of his relatives than you are to kill someone he believes to be a terrorist.

        To him, anyone fighting an invader is a patriot

        I often wonder if the same people who decry guerilla tactics and $200 IEDs would just roll over if China started flying jets over our airspace, and rolling tanks through our streets. It's a question that doesn't get asked because I don't th

    • Sorry, but the tact your taking is tired, old, and dishonest.

      Yes, in a PERFECT world that school would be a better choice. However we are building schools there, trouble is the terrorists and even some non terrorist locals don't give a rats ass about our morals or our beliefs and as such in some case it only is allowed to be used to educate boys... if at all. Should some teacher accidentally say the wrong the thing the school can be closed and the teacher killed .

      The real fact is, schools will not change

    • by CodeBuster (516420) on Friday April 17, 2009 @11:40PM (#27623463)

      Meanwhile, $75,000 would build a school, supply it, and provide money for staff for five years in Afghanistan.

      Which nobody would be able to attend without armed protection because the Taliban shut down any non-religuous schools that they come across (only Madrassas that teach koran + jihad are allowed to continue operating) and kill people who send their daughters to any school. Nobody will attend school if they believe that they will be shot and killed for doing so.

      So when you're trying to prevent a young muslim from becoming a radical, what's the better option - allowing him the chance to have an education, or blowing up his brother's wedding party and then air dropping him some pudding cups with little American flags on them?

      Your'e being naive, its not that simple. As long as the Taliban and the tribesmen are running around the countryside blowing up schools, shooting people who cooperate with us, and then escaping back across the border into Pakistan (the border is a line drawn by long dead white men really, it has little or no meaning to the Pashtun tribesmen who inhabit the region) nothing much is going to change and progress will be extremely slow if it comes at all. The Taliban are not reasonable people; they will never negotiate in good faith with the United States or anyone else from the west (they even stab their fellow Pakistani muslims in the back when they think the tables have turned and peace no longer suits them) not now and not ever and it is a waste of time to try and negotiate with them.

  • by grantdh (72401) on Friday April 17, 2009 @08:45PM (#27622447) Homepage Journal

    There's going to be a whole lot of pissed off Navy pilots if they make a UAV that can land on a carrier deck at night in crap weather. Their main reason for superiority over all other pilots will be shot to hell.

    When Navy pilots say "Flaring to land is like squatting to pee" then land based pilots will be able to come back with "Oh come on, landing on a carrier is so simple, even a computer can do it!" :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by catdriver (885089)

      There's going to be a whole lot of pissed off Navy pilots if they make a UAV that can land on a carrier deck at night in crap weather. Their main reason for superiority over all other pilots will be shot to hell.

      I'm the senior Landing Signal Officer for the US Navy's Atlantic Fleet, and we've actually had fully automated landing systems on carrier aircraft for a long while. The first test of any Automatic Carrier Landing System (ACLS) was in August 1957 [about.com], and after extensive development the system was regularly used in Vietnam. The current AN/SPN-46 [janes.com] is the latest iteration, but essentially it's just a glorified missile tracking radar that feeds into the airplane's autopilot via a simple UHF datalink. It's all ol

  • by TheHawke (237817) <rchapin&pelicancoast,net> on Friday April 17, 2009 @11:21PM (#27623387)

    Had a chilling thought looking at the specifications of the vehicle. It could easily carry several B61 nuclear bombs without much strain, perhaps up to 3 or 4. Being unmanned means that it won't be risking crews to fly nuclear missions. This might be taken wrong by hostile countries and it might be put on center stage.

Do you suffer painful illumination? -- Isaac Newton, "Optics"

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