General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GAASI) has flown the latest member of its Predator unmanned air vehicle family - the first MQ-12 Sky Warrior for the US Army's Extended-Range/Multi-Purpose (ER/MP) UAV programme.
The company-owned Block 0 pre-production aircraft flew from its El Mirage flight operations facility in California on 6 June. The Sky Warrior is a derivative of the Predator A and is powered by a Thielert Centurion diesel-cycle engine.
GAASI is to build additional Block 0 aircraft to demonstrate the maturity of the system. These will be deployed to south-west Asia early next year to provide an accelerated capability to support the US Army while ER/MP development continues.
The US Army is already operating the "Warrior Alpha" - GAASI's I-Gnat ER - in Iraq, and the company is under contract to deliver six Block 0s plus 17 Block 1 production aircraft, which will have additional systems and weapons capability.
The 1,070kg (2,350lb) gross-weight Warrior Alpha has a 25,000ft (7,600m) ceiling and 125km (70nm) range, whereas the 1,450kg Block 0 has a ceiling exceeding 29,000ft and 350km range. The Block 1 will have a 1,630kg gross weight and be able to carry four Hellfire missiles.
GAASI says the Sky Warrior's heavy-fuel engine increases power, improves fuel efficiency, reduces maintenance costs, extends service life and simplifies logistics. The UAV carries electro-optical/infrared and synthetic-aperture radar sensors.