France has finally developed a competitor for the U.S. Predator, and they are sending three of them to Afghanistan next month. The EADS SIDM is actually a modified version of the Israeli IAI Eagle UAV. SIDM is, like Predator, a 1.2 ton UAV that can stay in the air for up to 24 hours, at altitudes of up to 30,000 feet. SIDM has a 51.4 foot wingspan and a total payload capacity of 600 pounds.
The Predator is a one ton aircraft that is 27 feet long with a wingspan of 49 feet. It has two hard points, which usually carry one (107 pound) Hellfire each. Each hard point can also carry a Stinger air-to-air missile. Max speed of the Predator is 215 kilometers an hour, max cruising speed is 160 kilometers an hour. Max altitude is 25,000 feet. Typical sorties are 12-20 hours each. Predator is being replaced by Sky Warrior, and was developed into a larger combat version, the Reaper.
The MQ-9 Reaper is a 4.7 ton, 36 foot long aircraft with a 66 foot wingspan that looks like the MQ-1. It has six hard points, and can carry 1,500 pounds of weapons. These include Hellfire missiles (up to eight), two Sidewinder or two AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, two Maverick missiles, two 500 pound smart bombs (laser or GPS guided.) Max speed is 400 kilometers an hour, and max endurance is 15 hours. The Reaper is considered a combat aircraft, to replace F-16s or A-10s.
The MQ-1C Sky Warrior weighs 1.5 tons, carries 300 pounds of sensors internally, and up to 500 pounds of sensors or weapons externally. It has an endurance of up to 36 hours and a top speed of 270 kilometers an hour. Sky Warrior has a wingspan 56 feet and is 28 feet long. The Sky Warrior can land and take off automatically, and carry four Hellfire missiles (compared to two on the Predator).
France chose to develop their new UAV using an Israeli aircraft because the Israelis are pioneers in the field. The Predator owes much to earlier Israeli designs, and Israeli UAVs get lots of combat experience. SIDM finished its acceptance tests last Summer, and the last six months have been spent training operators and maintainers.