General Atomics is hoping to test arm its MQ-9A Hunter Killer (Predator B) unmanned air vehicle (UAV) with Raytheon AIM-9M Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles.

The company also wants to explore whether the MQ-9 can be armed with GBU-38 laser-guided bombs and Boeing Harpoon stand-off missiles. Options for a self-defence suite are also being studied.

General Atomics says it is talking to the US Air Force about widening ordnance options for the earlier RQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9. The USAF is already examining fitting the MQ-9 with 16 Lockheed Martin Hellfire anti-armour missiles.

Christopher Dassault, General Atomics Predator programme manager, say stactics development for armed UAVs is a key challenge as alternative weapons are developed.

Emerging issues include engagement strategies for the use of air-to-air missiles. "We don't have an onboard radar so we need to be cued. We have to hear that the bad guy is coming in. The main problem is the human-machine interface and the tactics," he says.

Source: Flight International