Official name: Predator C Avenger.
Manufactured: General Atomics (USA).
Type: Stealth UCAV.
Propulsion: Single Pratt & Whitney PW500 with 4,800 lbs of thrust.
Maximum speed: 460+ mph.
Service ceiling: 60,000+ ft.
Flight Duration: 20 hrs (+2 more with external fuel tank).
Wingspan: 66 feet.
Length: 41 feet.
Weaponry: 3,000 lbs of ordinance stored internally with an option to carry more externally. Compatible with most Air Force air-to-ground weapons, including the small diameter bomb (GBU-38) and the JDAM (GBU-31). Can reportedly also carry air-to-ground missiles.
Development Status: First flight: 4/4/09. No orders have been placed yet, but all branches of the US military are expected to begin acquiring Avengers in as little as one year.
Analysis: The Avenger is expected to be a key player in DoD secretary Gates’ future fighter force structure. The Avenger’s main role will be as fast response platform for troops that require help on the ground. It will fight in a tandem close air support role with the JSF as the A-10 is phased out. Using secure data links, information from ground troops and from surveillance aircraft like Global Hawk, MQ-1 Predator, and MQ-1C Warrior will be forwarded to more heavily armed assets like the MQ-9 Reaper and the Avenger. The proliferation of unmanned combat air vehicles like the Avenger has received criticism due to the fact that the US appears to be cutting its manned arsenal not for tactical reasons, but because UCAVs are significantly cheaper to field.
Miscellaneous: Although the Avenger is less stealthy than 5th generation fighters, it does have a greatly reduced radar cross section and lowered heat signature. It uses stealthy features like planform alignment, internal weapons bays, and S-shaped exhaust to dissipate heat. It uses 5th generation AESA radar and synthetic aperture radar to track small, moving objects.