Credit where credit is due: Steve Trimble reported the first flight of General Atomics' Predator C earlier this week, and now Shephard's Darren Lake has an artist's concept of what looks like a stealthy UAV or UCAV that was sighted at Kandahar recently - pictures apparently exist but have not been published.
Interesting question: are these events connected?
GA-ASI's jet has been in the works for years. The Predator B/Reaper was designed from the outset to accept either the Honeywell turboprop on the current aircraft or a Williams FJ44 turbofan, and the jet was almost ready to fly around the time of 9/11. However, due to strong interest from customers, this first Predator C was converted back to a prop job. Not long afterwards - I think it was Farnborough 2002 - GA-ASI boss Tom Cassidy was saying that the C had morphed into a new design.
Since then, it's been waiting for a customer and held back by the demands of the Reaper program - but its first flight and unveiling follows actions by two California congressmen to earmark funds to build two aircraft for deployment to Afghanistan, and as one of them comments, it will provide "strike" capability and "an additional covert capability."
So has someone made a quick deliberate security slip-up in Kandahar, as if to say: "Thanks, Congressman, but we've already got one of those"?
As for the Kandahar beast itself, it's hard to draw firm conclusions from a sketch based on a picture of unknown quality.
However, if it's operating out of Kandahar, it's a good first-order bet that the targets are in regions covered by Pakistani radar, since it's also a reasonable assumption that there might be a Pakistan AF radar tech or two whose allegiance is not where one would ideally like it to be.
But the same applies to a lot of people living around Kandahar, so one might also surmise that the mystery aircraft might be a bit short of range. (Otherwise, there are more secure bases in the UAE and Qatar.) A tech demo, quickly pressed into service, perhaps?
The impression gives no good clues as to the UAV's parentage. Four US groups are known to have built all-wing UAVs in the past decade-plus: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Abe Karem's Frontier Systems, which competed for the Global Hawk contract as a team-mate with Loral and built a subscale demonstrator of its W570 design. For that matter, it could be British: BAE Systems flew its Corax demonstrator back in 2005.
By the way, this also confirms the comment in the last paragraph of this post from last month.