The United States-based company General Atomics, along with its Spanish partner Sener, will be exhibiting the capabilities of its Predator B system - a MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) aircraft that will be used by the Spanish Air Force starting next year - at this week’s European summit on RPAS for security and defense, UNVEX S&D, taking place in the northwestern Spanish city of León..
In interview with Infodefensa.com, GA-ASI’s Vice President for Europe and NATO, Christopher Ames, dissected this RPAS’ main features.
What are the Predator system’s characteristics?
Proven reliability is chief among the MQ-9A Reaper’s characteristics. More than 300 MQ-9A have been produced and have flown collectively more than 2 million flight hours with 90% of those flight hours flown in combat. MQ-9A has further achieved a greater than 90% system operational availability rate, the highest of any manned or unmanned aircraft in the U.S. Air Force inventory. Spain joins other European MQ-9A operators, including Italy, the United Kingdom, and France. The aircraft has a 20-meter wingspan, an 11-meter length, and a maximum gross takeoff weight of 5,310 kg. The MQ-9A can climb to an altitude of 14,325 meters and has an airborne endurance of 26 hours. Its turbo-prop engine delivers a speed of 240 knots. The aircraft can carry 1,361 kg externally across 6 wing hardpoints and an additional 340 kg on an external centerline hardpoint. This 1,700 kg external payload capacity allows the addition of sensors and other payloads that provide the MQ-9A with multi-mission capabilities to support maritime surveillance, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, boarder protection, and safeguarding of ground forces, to name a few.
What other systems does this MALE incorporate?
The MQ-9A also includes a triple redundant flight control system, redundant flight control surfaces and a redundant high-capacity electrical power system. The aircraft is equipped with dual ARC-210 UHF/VHF radios with wingtip antennas and LED navigation lights. It is designed with a separate payload computer to simplify payload installations. The MQ-9A system includes a Mobile Ground Control Station (MGCS) where the flight crew pilot the aircraft (remotely or fully autonomously) and sensor operators collect Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) data for analysis. The MQ-9A can be operated via line-of-sight data link control, or via beyond line-of-sight/satellite (SATCOM) data link control. SATCOM control allows the flight crew to operate the aircraft and its sensors from half a world away.
Which sensors and radars does the system count with?
The MQ-9A system is equipped with a powerful electro-optical/infrared sensor that streams high-definition color or infrared video day or night. The Lynx Multi-mode Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) complements this video capability, providing radar imagery. The Lynx radar enables the ability to “see through” clouds and provides wide-area surveillance over land or sea, as well as ground moving target indicator capabilities. The MQ-9A Remotely Piloted Aircraft System will provide Spain with the proven, reliable and highly effective persistent situational awareness.
Which company will take care of the equipment’s maintenance?
That decision resides with the Spanish MoD. My understanding is that SENER will be working with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) and the Spanish Air Force to support the aircraft. SENER is a technology partner of GA-ASI for the integration of the RPAS MALE MQ-9 Predator B in Spain, as well as for providing the support during the life cycle of the program, as required by the Spanish Air Force. This is part of a robust industrial cooperation effort we’ve taken on in Spain.
Of what interest is UNVEX S&D to you?
UNVEX S&D is a standout event that deserves high regard for its consistently superb quality, organization and execution. Its multi-dimensional program is dynamic and impactful, offering expert speakers on unmanned systems, specialized workshops, exhibitions of leading-edge technology and live unmanned systems demonstrations. This rich and diverse program is certain to satisfy expectations while attracting leaders from military, civilian, industry and technology sectors. UNVEX 2018 promises to be a rewarding and worthwhile event.