By Peter La Franchi in London

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) hopes to fly its turbofan-powered Predator C unmanned air vehicle late this year, but says this target may slip as it gives priority to meeting production orders for the US Air Force and Army.

“Our next-generation aeroplane is being built and it should fly by the end of this year, but we promised that last year – that we would fly by the end of last year,” says Steve May, GA-ASI’s European marketing manager.

“We were the victim of our own success last year in terms of some contract awards. Our increased contractual obligations have slowed our own ability to perform our own research and development,” adds May.

“As with Predator B we are developing the new aircraft in our own time with our own research dollars, no taxpayer – except our owner – is footing the bill for its development,” he says.

GA-ASI confirmed the existence of the development programme midway through last year. The new UAV is intended to leverage GA-ASI’s existing technology base rather than represent any radical design or concept change, May says. “The new aircraft will embrace our basic design philosophy of using proven aircraft powerplants, in this case a jet engine. It will have long endurance, improved survivability and reliability, and be useful for both combat and homeland security operations.”

May says GA-ASI is delivering three MQ-1 Predator A aircraft each month to the USAF. US Army orders for the Warrior derivative will see 17 aircraft delivered by May next year.

Source: Flight International