The US Air Force is planning to acquire two General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Warrior unmanned air vehicle systems in US Army configuration to study the feasibility of tightening links with its MQ-1 Predator programme.
Division chief for airborne reconnaissance at USAF headquarters Col Bill Bridges says that the move will potentially leverage US Army investment in the Warrior under its extended-range multipurpose programme.
"Right now the army has spent $200 million in exploring, developing and buying the Warrior system the air force is now going to buy its first two systems and go from there and develop [them], and see if we have differences," he says.
"We definitely have differences in the concept of operations - however the airframe, the engine and the avionics are the same. There is an awful lot there we are sharing," says Bridges.
The USAF and army are already in ongoing talks on co-operation options, examining in-service arrangements for both systems. "We are looking at areas where we can combine training and spares and basing and all those things. There are obvious gains and synergies from that."
The Warrior is an evolved version of the basic MQ-1, with key additions including a larger wing, enlarged forward fuselage to allow increased payload carriage and additional hard points for weapons carriage.
The discussions mirror a move by the US Marine Corps to acquire US Army-configuration AAI RQ-7 Shadow 200 unmanned vehicles to replace Pioneer UAV RQ-2Cs.