Live-fire tests with an armed General Atomics RQ-1A Predator unmanned air vehicle (UAV) are set to take place this month. The move follows a test missile launch last month and the resolution of legal issues that had delayed the trial.

US Air Force officials say two live-fire flight tests are planned for between 12 and 16 February at a Nellis AFB, Nevada, test range. On 23 January a ground launch of a missile was successfully conducted from a USAFRQ-1A, hitting a stationary target at the Naval Air Weapons Center's China Lake, California, test range.

During the initial line-of-sight, live-fire test, the plan is for the Predator to launch and self-designate a Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire laser-guided missile from 2,000ft (600m) against a stationary target. That would be followed by a non-line-of-sight firing against a moving target from Predator's normal 15,000ft operating altitude.

The USAF envisions arming UAVs with in-development miniaturised munitions to attack time critical and mobile targets.

The flight tests will establish whether there are physical constraints to arming the RQ-1A, which was not designed for weapons carriage, although the design has two sets of underwing hardpoints for sensor payloads.

A successful demonstration could lead to additional flight testis and development of an Operational Requirements Document (ORD) for armed Predator.

Source: Flight International