Warplanes: June 25, 2003

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Britain lost 23 of its Phoenix UAVs in Iraq. The U.S. lost four Predators, two on purpose, in the same time period. The Phoenix has been a problem since development began in 1982. The UAV wasn't ready for service until 1998, and has had nothing but problems since. Costing $2.4 million each, the 386 pound UAV has a payload of only 100 pounds. Top speed is 140 kilometers and it can stay in the air for five hours. But it requires a large 6x6 truck to catapult it into the air. Most of the UAVs lost have simply disappeared while out on a mission. The long development time was expensive as well, doubling the actual cost of each Phoenix. The British press have noted that the American Predator is larger (weighting a ton), more reliable, stays in the air longer (24 hours or more) and carries more sensors or weapons. Counting manufacturing and development costs, the Predator costs about the same as the Phoenix. As a result, the British are retiring the surviving Phoenix UAVs and looking at buying an Israeli or American UAV (but not the Predator.)

 


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