February 13, 2011:
On February 8th, an American Predator UAV crashed in southern Yemen. Police were called in, and the wreckage was collected and driven off to a police station. But the local al Qaeda were alerted, and the police were ambushed. The al Qaeda then made off with the Predator wreckage. The question now is, what will al Qaeda do with the wreckage. If they can, they ought to sell it to the Chinese. While the Predator is not advanced technology, China is building Predator-like UAVs. They were able to do this because the shape and technology used in the Predator were well known. But there a lot of tweaks to the American design, based on vast experience using these UAVs, that the Chinese could extract from the wreckage. American intelligence is aware of this danger, and there will be a lot of moves (most hidden from view) made to keep the Chinese and al Qaeda from completing this transaction.
The MQ-1 Predator UAV has evolved into a family of three aircraft. The original Predator is a one ton aircraft that is 8.7 meters (27 feet) long with a wingspan of 15.8 meters (49 feet). It has two hard points, which usually carry one (47 kg/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 8,000 m (25,000 feet). Typical sorties are 12-20 hours each.
The MQ-9 Reaper is a 4.7 ton, 11.6 meters (36 foot) long aircraft with a 21.3 meters (66 foot) wingspan that looks like the MQ-1. It has six hard points, and can carry 682 kg (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 227 kg (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 U.S. Army MQ-1C Gray Eagle Warrior weighs 1.5 tons, carries 136 kg (300 pounds) of sensors internally, and up to 227 kg 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 of 18 meters (56 feet) and is 9 meters (28 feet) long. The Sky Warrior can land and take off automatically, and carry four Hellfire missiles (compared to two on the Predator).
Each of these UAVs costs $8-20 million each, depending on the sensor package. China is trying to export UAVs nearly identical to the Predator, but about 20 percent lighter. This Chinese model would be much improved if the Chinese could get some actual Predator components to dissect.