General Atomics offers Sea Avenger for unmanned, carrier-based strike

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General Atomics Aeronautical Systems will offer the US Navy a carrier-based version of its jet-powered Predator C Avenger unmanned aircraft system.

The Sea Avenger will likely compete against the Northrop Grumman X-47B, and perhaps other rivals, for an emerging navy requirement called unmanned carrier launched airborne surveillance and strike (UCLASS).

Responses were due on 3 May to a request for information issued by the navy on 19 March.

 
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The service is already investing more than $1 billion for the X-47B to demonstrate the feasibility of carrier-based operations for unmanned aircraft, including autonomous aerial refuelling. The UCLASS requirement calls for an aircraft with both capabilities which can be deployed by fiscal year 2018.

The first land-based Avenger entered flight test last April, and General Atomics believes the system's maturity compares favourably to its potential rivals.

The Sea Avenger will share many of the features already flying on 440 turboprop-powered Predator- and Reaper-series aircraft already in service, says director of business development Christopher Ames.

The Avenger-series is designed with many similar components as the Predator and Reaper, ranging from servos to flight control systems to surveillance and strike payloads.

"We've got proven systems," Ames says.

However, he acknowledges that more funding would be required to demonstrate the UCLASS capabilities.

Sea Avenger would include several modifications to the land-based design, including folding wing-tips, strengthened landing gear and structures and marinised electronic systems, Ames says.

The navy's RFI asks companies to provide data about an aircraft that can deliver 11-14h endurance with a combined payload of sensors and weapons.

The Sea Avenger can carry munitions within an internal weapons bay, Ames says. The wings can also be equipped with external hardpoints, if the customer makes the request, he adds.

A General Atomics image shows the Sea Avenger with a sensor similar to the Lockheed Martin electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) developed for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. But that does not mean the sensor is included in the Sea Avenger's design, Ames says.

"It's just artist's liberty," he says. "It's not meant to suggest that EOTS is on [the aircraft]."