General Atomics Sells Predator XP Abroad


PARIS — Drone-maker General Atomics will sell an unarmed version of its Predator unmanned system to the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the Middle East as part of a plan to boost international sales, a vice president said.

The drone, called the Predator XP, is equipped with radar and sensors to offer wide-area surveillance but not weapon systems such as laser-guided bombs or air-to-ground missiles, according to Christopher Ames, director of international strategic development for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., based near San Diego.

The design gives it a different type of missile classification that means it can be sold directly to foreign customers and outside of the federal government’s foreign military sale process, Ames said.

“It opens up a whole range of new markets that had been previously closed,” he said in an interview with at the Paris Air Show. “Allies and coalition members were saying, ‘When do we get our Predator?'”

The company has built more than 575 medium and high-altitude remotely piloted aircraft, including those made popular by their Air Force designations, MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper. The U.S. military in the past decade has used both systems to conduct strikes against insurgents and suspected terrorists in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

The company made an effort to display a new Predator B at the show, Ames said. “I’m told we’re one of the only U.S. companies displaying an actual aircraft,” he said. “We worked hard to make it happen.”

The Paris show was noteworthy this year for its dearth of American-made fighter jets, cargo planes, helicopters and drones. The Defense Department drastically scaled back its presence at the event due to federal budget cuts and increased congressional scrutiny of travel spending.

Among the aircraft notably missing in action: the fourth-generation F/A-18 Super Hornet and fifth-generation F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II fighter jets; the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor craft, which takes off like a helicopter and flies like an plane; the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, the biggest unmanned aircraft in the fleet; even the C-130J cargo plane.

The Defense Department faces $500 billion in automatic cuts over the next decade. That’s in addition to almost $500 billion in defense reductions already included in 2011 deficit-reduction legislation. The first installment of the automatic cuts began March 1 after lawmakers were unable to reach an alternative agreement on taxes and spending.

General Atomics isn’t concerned that the across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, will hurt its overall revenue, Ames said.

“There may be a dip on the U.S. side, but there may be a commensurate rise on the international side,” he said. “You would forfeit other things, but never having the unmanned eye in the sky.”

While the international market place is becoming increasingly congested with unmanned products, the company’s systems are “of a very high pedigree” and remain popular, Ames said.

The company sees increasing demand in Europe for the Predator B and in the Asia-Pacific region for a maritime version of the craft, he said. It also expects the U.S. Air Force to buy more of the jet-powered Predator C, which can fly at speeds of up to 400 knots, compared with a top speed of 240 knots for its other types of craft, he said.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • hibeam

    Maybe Obama could use a fleet of these to drop MRE’s on undocumented Democrats crossing the Arizona desert?

    • blight_

      It’s not just the immigrants I’d be worried about, it’s about their kids: because of birthright and all, they are citizens. Their values are inevitably up in the air, since they weren’t forged in the same third world Work-Or-Die conditions of their forefathers.

      If we outsource more factory jobs to Mexico, they can stay on that side of the border and stop coming over here for jobs, because there won’t be very many left on this side of the border. Let’s not pretend that the auto industry isn’t aware of the fact that Mexico+NAFTA means cheaper “American” cars…

      • hibeam

        When we have a one party system we can vote for free stuff faster. It will be like paradise. Or Detroit.

      • david

        Only partly true. The Democrats have realized that most illegals from Mexico that become citizens vote for the party that gives them more free services. Just like the african americans. Hence the Dems never want the flow of illegals stopped or even slowed.

        • 78stonewobble

          I blame Columbus for starting those damn illegal immigrant waves.

    • robertabbott

      When those individuals are crossing the Arizona desert, political party affiliation is the least of their concerns. As they get settled into America however, they see who has their best interests in mind.

      • Shine

        Oklahoma State University has the first of its kind UAS option, avlialbae for both the degrees of MS and PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. It provides students with a recognized emphasis in graduate level work in the area of Unmanned Aerial Systems, and hands-on analysis, design, construction, and flight testing of UAS platforms. Research Opportunities in UAS Design, Aerodynamics, 0bFlight Path Management and Airspace Integration, Sense and Avoid, Controls, Structures, Aeroacoustics, Propulsion, Communications and Operations, Sensors and Payloads are avlialbae. Research also includes flight testing and operations to be conducted at OSU UAS airfields in Stillwater and in partnership with the UML at Ft. Sill, OK with access to restricted airspace.

      • accutane

        Of the panoply of website I’ve pored over this has the most veracity.

  • Phono

    from the article: The U.S. military in the past decade has used both systems to conduct strikes against insurgents and suspected terrorists in countries such as Iraq and Australia.
    “Australia” is probably a mistake there, isn’t it?

    • Bruce

      Drop bear culling.

      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        The drop bears have started a terrorist insurgency?

        The Aussies are so screwed!

        Regards & all,

        Thomas L. Nielsen

  • Brendan McGarry

    Phono, you’re correct. That was my error. Thank you for the note. The story has been updated with the proper country. — The author.

  • ms6

    If i can strap a bottle rocket to my RC airplane, those countries can damn well figure out how to drop a bomb with a Drone. General Atomics has just put our troops in the enemies sights.

    • joe

      How? Why is any ‘military export’ going to end up in the hands of the PRC or Al Qaeda?

      Just as a quick list: Royal Air Force. Australian Air Force. Royal Canadian Air Force. Republic Of Korea Air Force.

      Any reason the above wouldn’t be trustable with an unarmed drone?

      Equally, what is special about UAVs? Frankly, any nation you’re prepared to sell latest-generation F-18’s to should by logic qualify for a remote controlled plane with delusions of grandeur.

      • ms6

        Our ‘Allies’ today can be our enemy tomorrow or they can sleep with our enemy on down the line. A quick buck verses keeping the technology in our hands is more prudent. let them build their own.

        • ms6

          BTW, a drone is not an F-18. Your comparison is weak at best.

  • RIP

    Whay are we doing this for God’s Sake?

  • Musson

    I am waiting for Predator - Windows 8!