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Predator C Avenger Makes First Flights 304

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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  • General Atomics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crumbz ( 41803 ) <<remove_spam>jus ... spam>> 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Re:No more parades? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by radtea ( 464814 ) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:44PM (#27621229)

    If that can be achieved by using robots instead of humans, that's just fine.

    Oh, it's still achieved by using humans... as targets.

    These machines, and the engineers who work on them, are evil. Yes, they will save American and British and probably even Canadian lives. But they will make it easier and easier for us to kill and kill and kill, and open the doors to even more horrible forms of warfare than those we practise now. And if you think the effect on our enemies is going to be bad, wait until you see the effect on us.

    We are about to perform the Standford Prison Experiment with our entire society, with the West in the role of arbitrarily powerful jailers and everyone else as a prisoner.

    It won't end well, y'know. "Kill them harder" has almost never been a viable basis for policy, foreign or domestic. Punitive action feels good, but objectively it has lousy effectiveness and efficiency. We do it because we like it, not because it works. Even I, with a deep-seated loathing of killing, can feel the draw of these machines. So powerful, so seductive, and so wrong, both morally and practically.

    Gandhi threw the British out of India using active, aggressive, non-violent resistance. That's the model people should be looking to if they want to find new and effective ways to impose their will on the world, not building machines that will make a desert and call it peace.

  • Re:F-22 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by winwar ( 114053 ) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:47PM (#27621277)

    "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..."

    Except that you generally want to see who you are shooting at. And when you have visual, cannons suddenly are very useful. One of the first retrofits to the F4 involved cannons for that very reason (and because the missiles sucked-I assume they are better now).

    Now if you can get an UAV to do that....

  • by anglico ( 1232406 ) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:48PM (#27621289)
    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.
  • Re:F-22 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:53PM (#27621339)

    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.

    pilots won't go anywhere as smart countries will target UAV weak points. remote control, and GPS. Modify a tv station ghz satellite transmitter for the right frequency and broadcast the wrong signal at the warzone. Better yet. Turn one of your space based satellite TV stations to broadcast higher power GPS signals. Flood the area with fake signals and let the receivers sort it out. In the mean time you start losing UAV's, fast.

  • 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.

  • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:12PM (#27621549)
    I design stuff that peoples lives depend on (not weapons). I'll tell you it's hard to sleep sometimes when you are finishing up a design. I often have nightmares of the product failing becuase of something I forgot. Others in the same field often have those dreams as well.
  • Re:No more parades? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by onkelonkel ( 560274 ) on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:19PM (#27621629)
    Harry Turtledove wrote one of his alternate history short stories about Ghandi fighting Nazi German invaders through peace and non-violence. The German commander is intrigued by Ghandi's ideas and briefly interviews Ghandi before having him shot.
  • Re:No more parades? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:45PM (#27621875)

    But they will make it easier and easier for us to kill and kill and kill

    How strange it is, then, that as we get better and better at killing, we seem to be more and more reluctant to do it.

    and open the doors to even more horrible forms of warfare than those we practise now.

    You want to talk about horrible forms of warfare, go look at what cultures of times past used to do. Genghis Khan would be a good starting point.

    We are about to perform the Standford Prison Experiment with our entire society, with the West in the role of arbitrarily powerful jailers and everyone else as a prisoner.

    The stanford prison experiment tested the reaction of a single individual being ordered around by an authority figure, in a controlled setting. It has no baring on large populations, especially within democratic societies.

    We do it because we like it, not because it works

    Killing a guy who plans to kill you tends to work quite well. If there are other, more efficient ways of dealing with the problem, then great - you'll find that even most soldiers prefer a peaceful solution. We don't actually LIKE being shot at. But it has to be a real solution, not just a delaying tactic which puts off the problem for future generations to deal with.

  • Re:No more parades? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:59PM (#27622031)

    Rubbish, the British were no more capable of shame than the Nazi's. What ultimately caused the British flight from India was their inability to maintain their expensive (and no longer profitable) colonies in the face of 2 world wars and a burgeoning Soviet Union.

  • Re:F-22 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rts008 ( 812749 ) on Friday April 17, 2009 @09:15PM (#27622653) Journal

    The F4? are you seriously truting out the F4? I don't know about you, but the rest of us are talking about modern warfare. the F4 hasn't even been produced for over 25 years.

    No, that was not his point. I also immediately thought of the F-4...strictly a missile platform, no guns. And every air to air combat pilot that flew them bitched about no guns until they got them.

    Or maybe this will get his point across:
    Those that ignore history, are doomed to repeat it.

    Ask any fighter pilot that has combat experience(air to air) how they would feel about removing the guns from their fighters, leaving only missiles for air to air.

    I hate to be the one to break it to you, but technology has change.

    Well thank you Captain Obvious.

    I've had the good fortune to have rode in both an F-4, and an F-15. Changes in tech? Yeah, so? Happens all of the time.

    For the point he was making, the F-4 was the perfect example to use.

  • Re:A new (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Friday April 17, 2009 @09:56PM (#27622887) Journal
    So, you would actually advocate that act of murder?

    I think the propagandists, the money-changers and the war machine makers are guilty of crimes against humanity. I think they should be held accountable for those crimes, and punished appropriately.
  • Re:No more parades? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Friday April 17, 2009 @11:17PM (#27623361)

    When few people get hurt during wars, wars will become ubiquitous. Remember what happened when tasers were supposed to fix all the problems that came with gun-equipped cops?

    Wars are going to become a quick fix solution to a trigger-happy authority with an army of drones.

  • 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.

  • Re:F-22 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PachmanP ( 881352 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @01:54AM (#27624047)

    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.

  • Re:F-22 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @09:00AM (#27625883)

    There's a marvellous story doing the rounds, about how Iraq bought a bunch of advanced GPS receivers from Russia in case of a Coalition invasion.

    There's numerous reasons given for why they didn't work, but it wasn't a problem for the Americans: the jammers were wiped out in a blink of an eye -- ironically, with satellite guided bombs.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas