Warplanes: March 7, 2003


Two of the new Predator B UAVs are being flight tested under operational conditions. The B model has a max weight of five tons, can carry a 3,000 pound payload, fly as high as 62,000 feet and stay in the air for up to 32 hours. Five more are being built, and one of these may see action in Iraq. There is also a new ground controller workstation being developed. This will feature a 120 degree wrap around display for the ground controller, as well as a HUD (Head Up Display) from the F-16. The manufacturer, General Atomic, grew from five people ten years ago to 850 today. Since September 11, 2001, 350 new employees have been hired. Four Predators are being produced a month, with an increase to six before the end of the year. In addition, the form makes spare parts and ground stations. Plans are underway to equip the Predator B with larger air-to-air missiles (Sidewinder and AMRAAM). The U.S. Air Force is buying 22 Predator As this year, as well as three Predator Bs. The CIA and U.S. Navy have also bought Predator As, as well as several foreign nations. By next year, the company expects to build about one Predator B a month. The company estimates that the U.S. Air Force will end up with 140 Predator As and 100 Predator Bs. But in the next few years, there will be new models, many of them jet propelled and stealthy. The Predator is also being offered to the U.S. Army and the Department of Homeland Defense. 


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