USAF Sending New Drone To Afghanistan

This is very interesting, just after losing an RQ-170 Sentinel drone to Iran the AIr Force is sending a single, stealthy-ish Predator-C Avenger drone to Afghansistan.

The Predator C is made by General Atomics and appeared to be in the running for the Air Force’s MQ-X next-generation combat drone project. That effort was put on old when the service said that it wanted to revise the requirements to make the drone more survivable.

Now, the Air Force apparently requested that the drone be sent to Afghanistan before the RQ-170 crashed. Furthermore, an Air Force announcement makes it sound as if the Predator C’s wing hardpoints will be used to carry weapons, something that will eliminate any stealthiness. This makes it unlikely that the drone will be used as a replacement for the Sentinel.

Here’s the Force Announcement:

“This aircraft will be used as a test asset and will provide a significantly increased weapons and sensors payload capacity on an aircraft that will be able to fly to targets much more rapidly than the MQ-9 [Reaper] UAS. Since it has an internal weapons bay and four hardpoints on each wing it will also allow greater flexibility and will accommodate a large selection of next generation sensor and weapons payloads.”

Via Flight.

  • Mike

    This is so cool go Air Force.

  • Myself

    How about making a drone with out an outside source controlling it. Have the coordinates already imputed and which weapon system that needs to be used. Then wrap the system in a proverbial Faraday cage.

  • Musson1

    What is the drone’s range? Can it hit targets in Iran?

    • brian

      The AF has bases all over the world… practically any aircraft in its arsenal can outside of a fighter can get within striking distance without even needing to be refueled… add the inflight refuel capability and the short answer to your question is yes.

  • Guest

    So, will this one have a self-destruct mechanism?

  • TLAM Strike

    @the editors: FWI you misspelled ‘hold’.

  • Morty

    Its good we finally have stuff in Afgan ready to hit Iran. Better to be ready then not

  • jamesb

    Sounds like a system looking for a mission…..

    • Brian Black

      Not really. The Predator and Reaper missions are already clearly identified – the Avenger will fit in smoothly with those.

  • Fat Man

    I’d love to see drones carrying tac-nukes/MOABs

  • Lance

    basically a jet attack drone in the war. No BIG news there.

  • Black Owl

    Let’s hope the Iranians don’t hack that one too.

  • zardinuk

    They were planning on sending this drone since July or something, not a direct result of the stealth drone going down over Iran, shoot that conspiracy theory down. It is nice timing though isn’t it.

  • Dfens

    Oh no, it has stealth shaping. It must, therefore, cost billions upon billions of dollars, have less that 65% mission availability, and be made completely of carbon fiber composite. What, it doesn’t, it isn’t, it won’t. Don’t let the taxpayers know… These UAV bastards are going to ruin it for all of us.

    By the way, where did you learn that hanging things off the wing has to destroy the stealth? Did a defense contractor tell you that? Obviously they would never lie.

    • Nate T.

      As far as weapons being hung off the wings – my understanding of the Super Hornet was that it was designed precisely to be as stealthy as practical while still carrying external ordnance, while being cheaper to buy and maintain than something like the F-22 or F-35. Result: relatively inexpensive aircraft, external stores, and a useful degree of stealth. I don’t know how you feel about the Super Hornet, but I figured you might appreciate that philosophy.

    • Reagan

      It lessens the stealth. You could have the stealthiest plane on earth, but when you have exterior weapons, it’ll still be a stealthy plane, but not the best.

      • blight

        Assuming standard mounting hardware and conventional weapons, of course.

        If we’d bothered to try and push the state of the art when it comes to low RCS mounting hardware and externally mounted weapons, we might have a little progress. And while not as stealthy as internal carry, you can carry more hardware, the hardware is future-proofed against size creep and you carry more stuff per sortie.

        We’re still very much in the business of maximizing stealth, possibly to the detriment of everything else.

    • H.Kent NDIA/NSATC

      Pay attention to an Old Crow…metal bomb or missile cruciform wings and tail sections are perfect radar reflectors. We have internal weapons bays to conceal these features. First educate yourself, then form opinions or you will appear ignorant which seems not to be your goal. For the earlier writer who mentioned Faraday cages…all current US military systems are shielded, their electrical circuits isolated from each other and filtered, with EMP surge arresting. We did this because we were planning to use nuclear weapons during the Cold War, now it continues due to conventional EMP weapons and directed energy from AESA radars. You don’t deploy things you have no countermeasure for…just things THEY have no countermeasures for.

  • Sanem

    indeed. had a manned aircraft gone down, they would have stopped all operations and you’d have the pilot being tortured on tv

    now they just send more :D

    one down (probably because of a fluke engine failure), hundreds to go, keep up the good work Iran ;)

    • Ed!

      Last one was unarmed…this one won’t be unarmed…goodbye Electronic warfare unit, if they try this stunt again.

  • Guest

    Best keep it away from the border this time.

  • txkboy

    Now wouldn’t that suck if next week’s news read “Iranians fly-off another advanced drone”.

  • Steve

    We don’t need no stinking drones we Nukes in IRAN.All the terroist are being supplied by Iran sick Isrel on them With nato’s help Iran will be a desolate spot on the earth.

  • Joe

    As someone who works for this company and directly involved in the loading of this plane this news is news to me i.e. it’s a fabrication to get someones attention.

  • Dark Angel

    Why send a drone, & why limit oneself to simply erasing Iran frmo the plant, why not take Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran out all at the same time & reduce the ampount of technology and time we’re wasting with the sand sprinting camel jockeys?

  • Will

    The Avenger can operate in a relatively stealthy mode by using only the internal weapons bay for ordance. And it’s obvious from the photo that radar was not the 1st consideration for the design like it was for the RQ-170.

  • BigRick

    I hope the airforce doesn’t “land” this drone in Iran too.

  • oldeng

    Just curious why the designer of these planes keep designing them as if there is a man in it. (i.e. thinking in two dimensions as oppose to three dimensions aka star trek, RoC.) They have a mental block of “the top is the top and the bottom is the bottom.” The computers flying them could care less which way it is flying, right side up or upside down.
    Why not…
    While on the ground and during take-off and landing it would be upside down with all the access panels, landing gear, engines on the bottom and nasty radar sig things. Once in the air it could flip upside down and fly it’s mission that way.

    The planes could have a continuous seamless top surface, (no doors/access panels as oriented on the ground) that would become the bottom surface during a mission. If it needed to launch something, a quick barral roll, dropping the weapon and then return to normal flight configuration flying.

  • tiger

    Will Drones count toward a ACE score?? In WW 1, did they had a separate count for balloons vs. planes???

    • dddd

      Interesting question. I have never thought about that before. I do know a few British pilots took down V1s during the Blitz. Maybe that could produce some leads.

  • Rob

    That’s the spirit. (Love my A.F.)

  • Don

    Can it find the one we just lost and Obama beg them to give back with a have smile on his face.

    I say we find it and destroy it no matter where it is. China will have it soon, and then Russia, and maybe North Korea. I can’t believe we let this happen, and did nothing about it. China must of given Iran some new tech stuff that we don’t know about, or the drone wasn’t ready to be flown in this area yet, without proper testing, and electric jamming, as a well as a fail safe self destruct. Boy, I would love to see that thing blow up in their faces. Since we have a weak president, China and Iran got a free weapon from us. Maybe this will teach us a lesson, but I doubt it.

    • HEY

      “Since we have a weak president, China and Iran got a free weapon from us.”

      Boy, you really are stupid eh? Why blame Obama for this UAV crash in Iran? It’s not like he personally piloted the damned plane to Iran.

  • Charles W.

    the internal bay will probably be solely utilized on missions into Pakistan or Iran. they will likely use the hard points on the wings for missions in Afghanistan.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Morning Folks,

    The Avenger is not a replacement for the Sentinel but a new class of UAV that is designed for the intelligence as well as the attack mission. I’m not sure what the current variant the USAForce is sending into Afghanistan but another things built into the Avenger is air to air refueling capacity, it could also serve as a tanker and refuel other UAV.s, it has a significantly larger weapons load (8,000-10,000 lbs?) with both hard points on the wings as mentioned and internal bays.

    The variant for the USNavy will be have carrier landing and take off and landing ability and be multi-mission, Sea Control, ASW, Ground support (yes there have been experiments with a cannon) , C4IRS (the internal bomb bay could house more fuel and equipment), Electronic Warfare etc. The air frame has an estimated cost of about $30 million which currently seems like a good deal.

    The Avenger is not a replacement for the F-35 or any other aircraft but is a who new class of aircraft. The avenger will have to wait for the USS Ford to be launched and operational before we can start to see what all it can do. But it not to far of a stretch of thinking to see carrier air groups made up of the F/A47’s and the Avenger’s.

    Byron Skinner

    • jamFRIDGE

      I was just wondering if this could be used for CAS. Bigger payload means more weapons, or a heavier one.

  • Von Anton

    Like we were allready told pilots fly their “drones,UBA,planes “from container or garage any were,could be youre neighbor in Chey,Ca.or nevada,with mate to retire after 8 hours to drive to get a beer?Its been done now and years ago I hope we dont run out of pilots planes or money??