US To Develop "Hunter-Killer" Predator Drone

April 1st, 2005  

Topic: US To Develop "Hunter-Killer" Predator Drone

US To Develop "Hunter-Killer" Predator Drone
01/04/2005 02:42 PM - Jim Wolf - Reuters

A new generation of the remotely piloted Predator aircraft used in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots is to be developed under a US Air Force contract.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems of San Diego, California, is being awarded a US$68.2 million deal to develop and demonstrate the MQ-9 Hunter-Killer drone, the Defense Department said.

"The effort will enhance the aircraft's weapons-carrying and targeting capability," it said.

Contract options include retrofitting four aircraft to the new configuration as well as communications and ground- and flight-test facility upgrades.

The new version of the aircraft, also known as Predator B, is designed to fly as high as 15,000 metres, twice the altitude of its predecessor. It also carry seven times the weapons load, according to, an official Web site aimed at the defense industry.

The Predator's main mission so far has been surveillance and reconnaissance. Starting in late 2001, some versions were equipped with laser-guided, anti-armor Hellfire-C missiles.

Earlier this month, the Air Force said it planned to spend US$5.7 billion to buy enough Predators to equip 15 squadrons over the next five years, compared with current three squadrons.

So far, more than 100 of the aircraft, which resemble an upside-down spoon, have been delivered to the Air Force as part of a growing reliance on remotely piloted aircraft, including Northrop Grumman's high-flying Global Hawk reconnaissance aircraft.

In November 2002, a Predator fired a missile at a civilian vehicle carrying suspected guerrillas in Yemen, the first such reported offensive use of the drone