Predator Bs could gain an extra 10-15h endurance under two retrofit options unveiled on 18 April by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

Adding two fuel pods and a previously designed heavy-weight landing gear would allow a Predator B to fly 37h without refueling on an surveillance mission, the company says.

Alternatively, General Atomics could add another 5h of endurance by installing 26.8m (88ft)-long wings, replacing 20.1m wings on the aircraft today.

Both retrofit proposals emerged from an internally funded "endurance enhancement study".

The modifications could be made "without costly depot aircraft modifications", the company says.

The heavier landing gear could increase the maximum takeoff weight of the Predator B from 4,762kg (10,500lb) to 5,307kg.

In February, the US Air Force revealed a new budget request proposing to slash the MQ-9 production budget in half over the next five years. The MQ-9 is the USAF designation for the Predator B, which is also operated by the UK, Italy, NASA and the US Customs and Border Protection Agency.

Source: Flight International