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AUVSI: GA-ASI makes second push for naval Predator B

Almost a year and a half after losing the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) contract, the head of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) still believes more Predator Bs will fly soon in US Navy colors.

In an interview, Tom Cassidy says the Predator B remains a player as the USN starts to replace an aging fleet of about 220 Lockheed P-3C Orions.

The USN already plans to buy 117 Boeing P-8A Poseidons and more than 48 Northrop Grumman RQ-4N BAMS to replace P-3Cs. In March 2008, the Navy rejected Lockheed Martin/GA-ASI's BAMS proposal based on the Predator B with an extended wingspan.

Cassidy says he believes there remains a strong role in the Navy inventory for a cheaper, baseline version of a land-based Predator B fitted with a maritime sensor.

Four maritime sensors have already been flown on the Predator B for evaluation purposes, he says, naming five potential suppliers: Elta, ITT, Raytheon, Selex and Telephonics.

Although the Navy does not have a current requirement for a Predator B-sized aircraft between its RQ-4N and small tactical UAS (STUAS) fleets, Cassidy says that there are opportunities for the Predator B outside the normal acquisition channels. He cites the fact that the US Air Force purchased both the MQ-1A Predator and MQ-9B Reaper initially without a program of record.

In recent years, Congress members have already given the Navy money to buy three Predator As and four Predator Bs, Cassidy says.

Meanwhile, GA-ASI is also actively pursuing potential sales for a maritime patrol aircraft with both the Department of Homeland Security and the US Coast Guard, Cassidy says.

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