Warplanes: April 30, 2002


The Air Force has decided that the Global Hawk unmanned recon drone will remain unarmed. The reason is that neutral and friendly nations do not mind seeing US recon planes (Global Hawk, U-2) over fly their territory as they know they have no weapons. Global Hawks will equip the 12th, and later the 14th and 16th recon squadrons, which will be based at Beale AFB in California along with the U-2 wing. Global Hawk production is to increase to four aircraft in 2003 and six each in 2004 and 2005. The Predators, however, will be armed, and will go to the 11th, 13th, and 15th Recon Squadrons at Indian Springs just north of Las Vegas. The new Predator B (with a turbo prop engine) will have considerably better performance than the current Predator A. The Predator B will be faster (378 kilometers per hour vs. 338), fly higher (45,000 feet compared to 25,000 feet), and have a larger payload (1,650 pounds vs. 990). Predator B will also carry 2,200 pounds on its wings (usually missiles). Most of the armed Predators in Afghanistan have been using Hellfire anti-tank missiles, but these do not function well when carried into the freezing cold of high altitude, so the Air Force wants to try out other weapons, such as the new Small Diameter Bomb, a 250-pound version of JDAM, and the Locass miniature cruise missile. Production is increasing from eight Predators per year to 24--Stephen V Cole


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