General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., a leading manufacturer of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), tactical reconnaissance radars, and surveillance systems, recently introduced Sea AvengerTM, a carrier-based derivative of its Predator® C Avenger® UAS, to fulfill the U.S. Navy’s need for an unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike (UCLASS) system. The company formally proposed Sea Avenger to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) via a Request for Information (RFI) submitted on 30 April.
“Sea Avenger fulfills the Navy’s need for a carrier-based unmanned aircraft system that offers long-endurance, proven ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance] and precision-strike capabilities,” said Frank Pace, president, Aircraft Systems Group, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
Like Predator C Avenger, Sea Avenger presents a low-risk, high technology ready procurement option as it leverages more than 18 years of Predator-series UAS development, manufacturing, and system support, along with one million flight hours of operational experience. In addition, many Predator-series elements, components, and subsystems already provide mature, proven, and affordable mission capabilities desired by the Navy for a UCLASS system.
Anticipating a future requirement for a carrier-based UAS, GA-ASI designed specific features into its Predator C Avenger to facilitate subsequent development of an aircraft uniquely suitable for carrier operations that would also integrate seamlessly into the carrier air wing. These include a highly fuel-efficient engine and inlet design, retractable electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor, internal weapons bay, and folding wings. The aircraft’s structure was also designed with the flexibility to accommodate carrier suitable landing gear, tail hook, drag devices, and other provisions for carrier operations.
“Sea Avenger is an affordable and transformational technology that will provide commanders with enhanced situational awareness and time-sensitive strike,” noted J. Neal Blue, chairman and CEO, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
Sea Avenger is based upon its predecessor, Predator C Avenger. Predator C is designed to perform high-speed, multi-mission persistent ISR and precision, time-sensitive strike missions over land or sea. The current configuration features a 44-foot long fuselage and 66-foot wingspan, is capable of flying at 400 KTAS for 20 hours, and can operate up to 50,000 feet. Avenger incorporates a pure jet power plant and carries a Lynx® Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), various EO/IR camera systems, and up to 3,000 pounds of internal ordnance, as well as other sensors. The aircraft is based on an open, modular architecture that provides “plug and play” system configuration, configuration management, and significant flexibility for rapid, controlled change, adaptation, and growth. Developed on company funds for near-term military use, Predator C Avenger is successfully continuing through its planned test program, with a second aircraft currently under development and expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The U.S. Navy has experience operating both Predator and Predator B aircraft manufactured by GA-ASI.