The MQ-1 Predator UAV has evolved into a family of three aircraft. The
original 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
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.
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).
model number (MQ-1C) indicates, Sky Warrior is a Predator (MQ-1) replacement.
The U.S. Air Force plans to replace its MQ-1s with MQ-1Cs. Sky Warrior enters
production next year, and the U.S. Army (which paid for development) wants over
500. So far, the attrition rate of Predators has been over five percent a year.
Unless that can be brought down, few individual Predators will last more than a
decade and the MQ-1C will replace it gradually. Most of the losses are due to
mechanical, electronic, software or operator failure. Never have so many UAVs
been used so extensively, and intensively, in combat. So it's a learning
experience in a new environment. The attrition rate is coming down, but not
and air force are going to jointly manage the Predator force, or at least the
MQ-1Cs. This will cause some unexpected scuffles, as many air force generals
believe the army should not have the MQ-1C, or at least not use them with
weapons. That has already caused some sparks to fly in the Pentagon, and it may
all end up in Congress. This is because in the 1950s, after a decade of
bickering, the Department of Defense ordered the army to stick with
helicopters, while the air force got all the fixed wing aircraft. But UAVs have
no pilots in them and the army does not consider them part of the half century