April 10, 2009: General Atomics, the developer and manufacturer of the Predator, let slip that the larger, jet powered "Predator C" had finally, after two years of delays, had its first flight recently. Not to be confused with the MQ-1C Sky Warrior, Predator C is a project that was started before Sky Warrior, and has taken much longer to get off the ground.
Predator C is a larger, jet powered version of the five ton Predator B, and has long been delayed in development. It was supposed to start flight tests by the end of 2006, but that was pushed into 2007, and then 2008. The Predator B costs about seven million dollars each, and the Predator C is expected to weigh twice as much, and cost three times as much. But that will still be about half the cost of a 13 ton Global Hawk.
The Predator C is expected to deliver about 85 percent of the performance of the Global Hawk, at about half the price. To compete with this, there is a "Global Hawk Lite" in development. The Predator C is designed to fly high (up to 60,000 feet) and cross oceans. Officially, Predator C doesn't exist, and is a "black" (secret) program. But it's an open secret
Most of the cost of these "strategic UAVs" is in the space satellite grade sensors. The MQ-4 Global Hawk, with minimal electronics, costs about $40 million. But you can easily add over $60 million worth of satellite grade gear to either a $20 million Predator C, or a $40 million Global Hawk. Thus Global Atomics is trying to come up with a lot of improved features (more reliable, easier to maintain, cheaper to run) for their Global Hawk competitor.