April 18, 2008 General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GAASI) has announced the successful flight of the first Sky Warrior® Block 1 aircraft for the U.S. Army’s Extended Range/Multi-Purpose (ER/MP) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) program. Derived from the Predator UAV which has been deployed in Iraq, but with double the weapons capacity, the Sky Warrior is a multi-mission aircraft designed to perform long-endurance, surveillance, communications relay and tactical strike missions. It offers increased range, greater payload flexibility (including the ability to carry four Hellfire missiles) and can remain airborne for 30 hours at a time at altitudes above 25,000 feet.
The flight took place on March 31 from General Atomics' El Mirage Flight Operations Facility in Adelanto, California and is another milestone in the $1 billion ER/MP UAS Program for which the General Atomics Warrior UAV was selected in August 2005. When complete, the Program aims will see 17 Sky Warrior aircraft and seven One System Ground Control Stations (OSGCS) operational.
“Army tactical commanders at the division level and below are now one step closer to having the RSTA [Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition] information they need to offer increased protection to their troops on the ground,” said Thomas J. Cassidy, Jr., president, Aircraft Systems Group, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. “This milestone event was a collaborative effort between GA-ASI and our PM-UAS customer. Jointly, this team planned and executed a methodical approach to first flight success.”
Key attributes of the C-130 transportable Sky Warrior include a heavy-fuel engine that can burn jet or diesel fuel with greater horsepower and reduced maintenance costs, triple redundant avionics, redundant flight controls and dual-redundant automatic takeoff and landing, over-the-horizon satellite communications and electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) payloads.
The Sky Warrior Block 0 aircraft was first flown in June 2007.