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Predator B: the Most Innovative Design in 2001

Predator B: the Most Innovative Design in 2001

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. has received the Design Innovation Award from Unmanned Vehicles magazine on 16 June. At the Unmanned Vehicles Conference in Paris, GA-ASI was recognized for its development of the jet-powered Predator B aircraft and its successful first flight which occurred in February. Interview with Admiral Thomas J. Cassidy, President and CEO of GA-ASI, and Neal Blue, President and CEO of General Atomics Inc., by FdV, Paris Airshow, June 18, 2001.

T.J. Cassidy and Neal Blue interviewed by French TV at the Paris Air Show

Q.: Admiral Cassidy, could you first present the Predator B, which is already like its predecessor on its way to become a success, and also tell us more about the award that was given to the Predator B on June 16 ?

A.: We were given an award last week by the readers of the Unmanned vehicles Association Magazine, that named the Predator B as "the most innovative airplane design of this year and we really appreciated the award. It really reflects what the Predator has done in this UAV industry and for the United States Air Force.

The Predator B is a prop jet. 950 Shaft horse-power airplane.

It carries about four times the capacity of Predator, flies to 45 000 feet and indicates 210 knots. It’s capable of flying for about 24 hours. We also have a jet version, without the propeller, that flies to 60 000 feet for about 12 hours. This is the natural growth of the Predator system so our customers can go from the Predator right into turboprop or jet, using exactly the same ground control station, the same datalink system. In fact the electronics in the Predator B are exactly the same as the Predator. We have interchangeable electronic boxes.

Q.: Back to the Predator A, which has been a success story in unmanned aviation. Could you remind us, Sir, of the performances of the system which is now used in 9 theaters of operations ?

A.: The Predator has now flown over 30 000 flight hours. We have been deployed in combat areas about nine different times. We have flown over 2 000 combat sorties.

Predator was operated over the Balkans, flying from four different countries. Predator also operated in South-West Asia in support of the United States Air Force, the United Nations, and NATO. It’s really the only US unmanned airplane that has accomplished these sorts of missions with such success.

Q.: The US Air Force is very proud of the Predator system, because it has been the very first to provide real-time intelligence and moreover now, life video in the cockpit. Is that right ?

A.: The Predator provides a day color television, infra-red imagery, and synthetic aperture radar imagery through the cloud cover. It is brought up to the airplane and processed in the airplane, then up to a satellite, brought down to the ground control station, where it is analyzed and redistributed through satellites all over the world.

The imagery goes to numerous United Nations Command Centers in Europe, it goes back to the United States, to the Pentagon and at the White House, and is also used to assist and provide tactical airplanes pilots with aim points of targets. This imagery is provided by an other datalink that goes up to the F-16 or to the F-18, and shows the pilot what his target looks like, and gives him the aim-point coordinates, so they can program weapon to go to that point. So it is a very useful system. Predator is also equipped with a laser designator so Predator can put a laser spot on the target, so the tactical airplanes can come in and drop laser-guided weapon on it. And also, the Predator now can launch hellfires air-to-surface missiles, using its own laser-designator to designate the target.

So it has been a very versatile system. It’s the only one of its kind in the world.

Thank you Sir.

Q.: Mr Blue, could you present us your vision of the Predator B, the latest in the Predator family. And could you tell us more about the civilian use of that system ?

A.: Well, the commercial applications will include geodesic prospecting, include also interjection and border control activities.

The military application of course have been discussed by Admiral Cassidy. Perhaps, most interesting is some measure of consideration for the all-weather reconnaissance capability represented by the extraordinary Lynx SAR which provides a resolution of 10 cm at about 35 km of distance, and a resolution of about 30 cm at more than 50 km of distance. This provides in all-weather an extraordinary ability to accurately proceed what is going on on the ground below the clouds.

Q.: Many countries, Great-Britain, Italy, France, Germany and other have showed their interest for the Predator system. How confident are you of the system’s future ?

A.: Indeed they are and we have every reason to be optimistic in terms of finding new customers? And we certainly have had serious discussion, in particular with both of these countries

Thank you Mr Blue.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).