Posted by John McHale FARNBOROUGH, United Kingdom, 19 July 2010. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GAâASI) provided an update on test program activities for its multi-mission jet-powered Predator C Avengerunmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The next-generation Predator UAV series aircraft first flew in April 2009 and has continued to progress successfully through its scheduled test program. Tail one is currently averaging two to three flights a week, with the capacity to support a more aggressive schedule as range availability allows. Over the past 15-plus months, only one launch has been cancelled due to parts and/or maintenance. In May, flight tests were transferred from GA-ASI's Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., to Naval Air Station (NAS) China Lake, Calif., to allow for increased envelope expansion. The aircraft has demonstrated the ability to be launched in only 30 to 45 minutes from hangar to flight. "The test program for Avenger is proceeding along very well, with some results exceeding our expectations," says Frank Pace, president, Aircraft Systems Group, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. "Our company goal has always been to deliver extremely capable unmanned aircraft that are ready for near-term customer use, and Avenger is on-track to continue in this tradition."Throughout Avenger's various test flights, its initial handling characteristics have been outstanding, indicating excellent agreement between analytic models, simulations, wind tunnel results, and actual flight test. The fuel burn rates also have been as high as ten percent better than models had predicted, yielding increased endurance. Additionally, a new approach in the test process has reduced the number of flights required to ensure that the engine meets all operating constraints significantly. With avionics based upon the battle-proven Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper, Avenger is designed to perform high-speed, long-endurance, more covert, multi-mission intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and precision-strike missions over land or sea. It features a variety of internal weapons loads, including 2,000 lb Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), an electro-optical/onfrared (EO/IR) sensor, and an all-weather GA-ASI Lynx synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator (SAR/GMTI), maximizing both long loiter ISR and weapons carriage capabilities. Production of a second, as well as a third, aircraft in the Avenger series is well underway, with the first flight of tail number two planned for late this calendar year. With a 44-foot long fuselage, 66-foot wingspan, and 6,000 lb payload capacity, tail two will be slightly larger than tail one and will feature increased payload capacities. Avenger is capable of flying at over 400 KTAS and can operate up to 50,000 feet for 20 hours. Avenger has drawn significant interest from both U.S. and allied forces and is a significant candidate for the United Kingdom's upcoming SCAVENGER UAV Program. Utilizing proven systems and operating from the same, continually improving ground control stations as Predator and Reaper, it offers unique advantages in terms of performance, cost, timescale, and adaptability. The aircraft is capable of supporting coalition operations, in both benign and higher threat environments, and will ensure immediate NATO interoperability by working in tandem with Royal Air Force, U.S. Air Force, and Italian Air Force Predator-series aircraft.