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Posted: 3/16/2006 9:05:27 AM EDT
US Navy acquires armed Predators

By Stephen Trimble

Details have emerged that the US Navy (USN) has received its first two unmanned aircraft to be delivered with an inherent armed mission capability.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) delivered two MQ-9A Predator Bs to the USN in December 2005, GA-ASI President and Chief Executive Thomas J Cassidy told Jane's.

Cassidy declined to elaborate on which naval organisation has taken delivery of the MQ-9As and what purpose they will serve in operation. However, he confirmed that the aircraft were not delivered in the 'Mariner' configuration of Predator that was offered for the original Broad Area Maritime Surveillance competition in 2003, a concept that has been shelved for several years while USN officials re-study the issue.

"At this point it is strictly Predator B," Cassidy said, adding that funding for the purchase was provided within the Fiscal Year 2006 (FY06) defence appropriations bill.

(freebie article from janes.com)

Link Posted: 3/16/2006 9:07:15 AM EDT
What's with the new MDS? Why not just call them RQ-1Bs?
Link Posted: 3/16/2006 9:07:59 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/16/2006 9:20:13 AM EDT by COLE-CARBINE]
Background info........

MQ-9A Predator B

The turboprop-powered Predator B, designated MQ-9B by the US Air Force and referred to as the Hunter-Killer, flies faster, higher and carries more weapons than the Predator. The Honeywell TP331-10 engine, producing 950 shp, provides a maximum airspeed of 260 kts and a cruise speed for maximum endurance of 150-170 kts. The MQ-9B can carry a payload mix of 1,500 lb. on each of its two inboard weapons stations, 500-600 lb. on the two middle stations and 150-200 lb. on the outboard stations.

The first production MQ-9B had been built by late 2002, at which time three more were under construction, with 3-4 to follow in 2003 and full production of 9-15/year to be reached in 2004.

Another version of the Predator B, with a 20-ft. wing extension, started flying in late 2002. The standard MQ-9, at a takeoff weight of 10,000 lb., can carry 3,000 lb. of payload and 3,000 lb. of fuel. With no exterior stores, it could stay aloft for 32 hr. at an altitude of more than 50,000 ft. The version with the wingspan extended to 86 ft., about the same as a 737 airliner, can carry 34 hr. of internal fuel. With two 1,000-lb. drop tanks and 1,000 lb. of weapons it can fly a 42-hr. mission. Payloads can vary, but a favorite is the steadily upgrading Lynx synthetic aperture radar with a range of about 15 mi. even through clouds and rain.

Weapons planned the MQ-9A Predator B include the AGM-114 Hellfire II laser-guided air-to-surface missile to attack stationary ground targets. By the end of 2003 the Air Force intends to evaluate Raytheon's FIM-92 Stinger missile in the air-to-air role. By 2005 the Air Force plans to add the GBU-38 500 lb Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). The service then intends to integrate the 500 lb GBU-12 laser-guided bomb with the air vehicle. Other direct-attack weapons such as Raytheon's AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile remain options, while air-to-air weapons like Raytheon's AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile may also be evaluated at some point.

The fifth Predator B was completed in June 2004 and a sharp increase in output was expected afterwards. The current configuration has a length of 36 feet and a wingspan of 68 feet. It was not reported whether or not the extended wingspan version would enter into service.

The radar system on the Predator B also represents an upgrade over the Predator A. Since the Predator B is expected to act as a strike vehicle, a better targeting radar was developed by General Atomics in conjunction with Sandia National Laboratories. The new radar system is known as Lynx synthetic aperture radar. Not only does the new radar have 4-inch imagery resolution, it can also zoom. It allows the Predator B to accomplish its ground-imaging role even in poor conditions. Also, the targeting system was replaced with the 22-inch Raytheon MTS-B gimbal. This new system works at longer ranges than the previous 17-inch Multi-Spectral Targeting System camera gimbal.

Link Posted: 3/16/2006 9:08:55 AM EDT
Okay, good enough for me.
Link Posted: 3/16/2006 9:09:14 AM EDT
(from strategypage.com./April 2005)

To date, the U.S. Air Force has purchased 114 Predator A UAVs, with the CIA getting another dozen. So far, 37 percent of those Predators have been lost in action, mostly to accidents. Having a pilot on board does much to reduce accidents, although the air force is improving UAV operator training, and the flight control software, and the accident rate is going down. Each Predator A lost costs $4.5 million. The air force has ordered another 144 Predators, and some of these will be the larger Predator B. This version can stay in the air for about 24 hours (compared to 40 hours for the A model), and, most importantly, carries 1.7 tons of munitions. This can include Hellfire missiles, and 250 or 500 pound smart bombs. Typically, the Predator B will go into action carrying 16 Hellfire missiles. The Predator B is meant to be a “hunter-killer” UAV. It will go into action looking for targets it can immediately attack.

The Predator B prototypes have been flying since 2001, and have performed well. But the air force does not want to rush it into service, and will continue testing for another 12-18 months. Each Predator B costs $7 million. The army particularly likes the Predators because they have “persistence” (the ability to stay over a battlefield for hours on end.) The air force is reluctant to keep shifts of manned aircraft over a battlefield for that long, if only because it’s so expensive (about $4,000 an hour, on average, for most fighter bombers, about ten times the hourly cost of flying a Predator.) There are also not enough manned warplanes to provide that kind of persistence. The air force is also developing new flight control software for Predator, that will allow one pilot to control four Predators, while each of those four UAVs will have one sensor operator. Current software requires one pilot and two sensor operators per Predator in flight. The Predator spend the vast majority of their time just watching the ground below.

In response to troop demand for UAVs, the army has sent hundreds of smaller UAVs to Iraq and Afghanistan, for reconnaissance, and is rushing a GPS guided 155mm artillery shell (Excalibur) into service by next Spring, to take advantage of targets spotted by all these UAVs.. The army doesn’t want to be dependent on the air force for persistence, while the air force is not looking forward to replacing its manned fighter-bombers with armed UAVs. However, that’s where the air force is going. The Predator B will have the same weapons load of an F-16, although it will fly much slower (max, about 400 kilometers an hour.) But for ground attack, slower speed is an asset. The Predator B will be more reliable (have a lower accident rate) and possess better sensors than the Predator A.



Link Posted: 3/16/2006 9:13:05 AM EDT

Having a pilot on board does much to reduce accidents


So does building them with huge numbers of redundancies built in. But these add to weight, cost, and performance.

The beauty of UAVs is the ability to lose one, shrug your shoulders, learn from it and move on.
Link Posted: 3/16/2006 12:42:07 PM EDT
I wonder if the Predator is operable off a carrier?
Link Posted: 3/16/2006 12:45:49 PM EDT
Wheaauuu!, I was a little worried by the topic header. I thought I was gonna read about how the Navy is buying mexican gang members.
Link Posted: 3/16/2006 12:47:34 PM EDT
The A needs 2500 feet. I can't see the B needing much less.
Link Posted: 3/16/2006 7:10:08 PM EDT

Originally Posted By SmilingBandit:

Having a pilot on board does much to reduce accidents


So does building them with huge numbers of redundancies built in.



The fact that pilots no longer have to worry about dying every time they crash their planes might also have something to do with it...
Link Posted: 3/17/2006 6:39:21 AM EDT

Originally Posted By COLE-CARBINE:
(from strategypage.com./April 2005)



In response to troop demand for UAVs, the army has sent hundreds of smaller UAVs to Iraq and Afghanistan, for reconnaissance, and is rushing a GPS guided 155mm artillery shell (Excalibur) into service by next Spring, to take advantage of targets spotted by all these UAVs.. .




I can hardly wait for a battery fire of Excaliburs going TOT-it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.
Link Posted: 3/17/2006 10:44:05 PM EDT
USN's sub-launched UAV program......



The Cormorant Concept - a submarine/sea-launched and recovered MPUAV

March 18, 2006 If, as the men-behaving badly magazines tell us, “he who dies with the best toys, wins” then the United States military will invariably triumph, and it will only be a matter of deciding which arm of the military has the best array of the ultimate gizmos. The Cormorant concept, should it be built, is likely to give the Navy a big leg up!

The Cormorant is a submarine/sea-launched and recovered Multi-Purpose Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (MPUAV) - a unique concept to extend the capabilities of the newly modified OHIO-Class SSGN submarine as well as surface combatants such as the Littoral Combat Ship. It could enable renewable, organic air operations for long-range, survivable, all-weather reconnaissance, battle damage assessment, or specialized mission support (e.g., special forces re-supply) in a broad spectrum of operations. In particular, the combination of a stealthy SSGN submarine platform and a survivable MPUAV could introduce new capabilities to support future joint warfighting operations in high-threat scenarios.

DARPA began a Phase 0 feasibility study looking at an immersible MPUAV in 2003. In May 2005, the program moved into Phase 1 to conduct risk reduction demonstrations. A decision on future phases will be made once Phase 1 results are available.

The 16-month Phase 1 effort will address critical technical aspects of the overall MPUAV system concept. Key risk reduction demonstrations will include submerged docking tests using a full-scale, instrumented MPUAV mock-up/test article, and a mechanism placed on the sea floor to emulate the launch and recovery "saddle" that would be extended from a SSGN missile tube. A second test article will emulate the forward half of the MPUAV to be utilized for instrumented splashdown testing of structural loads. A remotely operated vehicle will be used to demonstrate the in-haul recovery cable/MPUAV tether hook-up event. Additionally, rapid starting of a representative turbofan engine using high-pressure gas will be demonstrated in a test fixture.

The current MPUAV concept envisions the immersible MPUAVs being housed and serviced in the ballistic missile launch tubes of the SSGN. They would be released from the submerged submarine and remain buoyant at the water’s surface until launched using two Tomahawk missile-derived solid rocket boosters. Upon mission completion, the turbofan engine-powered MPUAVs return to a designated retrieval point at sea, initiate engine shut down, and splash down to await recovery. During recovery, the submerged SSGN would deploy a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to secure an in-haul cable from the SSGN to the recovery tether deployed by the MPUAV. The SSGN would then haul the MPUAV to its designated launch tube saddle mechanism, where it would be docked and retracted into the missile tube. The buoyant launch and recovery mode of the MPUAV would also allow it to be operated from surface ships. Access to various types of MPUAV launch and recovery platforms could provide increased operational and maintenance flexibility. Details of the MPUAV concept will be refined as Phase 1 proceeds.

The contractor for the MPUAV program is Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, teamed with General Dynamics Electric Boat, Lockheed Martin Perry Technologies, and Teledyne Turbine Engine Company. They received $7.1M in DARPA funding for Phase 1.



link

Link Posted: 3/17/2006 10:52:53 PM EDT

Originally Posted By SmilingBandit:
The A needs 2500 feet. I can't see the B needing much less.



The A also stalls at about 55 knots, how fast does a carrier roll? Both could operate off a carrier pretty easily if they needed to. The A was a pile of garbage (I worked on them for three years) I hope the B is a vast improvement.
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