Tuesday, July 20, 2010

General Atomics Wins Approval to Sell First Predator Drones in Middle East

By Gopal Ratnam


General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. said it won U.S. approval for an export version of the Predator drone, clearing the way for the first sales of the unmanned aircraft in the Middle East. “There’s interest from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates,” Frank Pace, president of the aircraft systems group at the closely held company, said today in an interview at the Farnborough Air Show near London.

General Atomics recently received U.S. State Department approval to offer an unarmed Predator model to countries beyond the NATO bloc, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, Pace said. That would allow sales in the Middle East and elsewhere to governments previously ineligible to buy the planes, he said. General Atomics see the potential for sales of as many as 100 units in the Middle East and Pakistan of the so-called Predator XP model approved for export, Pace said. “Saudi Arabia is a huge country, and if they want to cover the country well, they alone could get 50 aircraft,” Pace said.

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