Warplanes: April 8, 2004


General Atomics, the developer and manufacturer of the Predator UAV, has upgraded the Predators less capable predecessor, the Gnat, and created the I-Gnat (Improved Gnat.) The older Gnat 750 was developed in the late 1980s, and looks like the Predator. In fact, the Predator was developed as a slightly larger (49 foot wingspan compared to 35 for the Gnat, and 42 feet for the I-Gnat) aircraft. Although it is 20 percent lighter than the Predator, the I-Gnat has a payload of 650 pounds (compared to 143 pounds for the Gnat 750 and 450 pounds for the Predator), and can stay in the air for up to 50 hours (20 percent more endurance than the Predator). The I-Gnat also takes advantage of ever lighter and more reliable electronics. The Predator and I-Gnat actually use the same engine, and many mechanical and electronic components. The I-Gnat also comes with five attachment devices ("hard points", two under each wing and one under the fuselage) for weapons or equipment. Hellfire missiles, which have been used from a Predator, weigh 100 pounds each. New guided weapons like the Viper weigh less than half that. Three I-Gnats are going to Iraq next month.


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