General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has flown the first Predator B Block 1+, an upgrade of what the US Air Force (USAF) calls the MQ-9 Reaper.
The USAF-funded upgrades include increased maximum takeoff weight, a larger power generator and new radios that allow multiple simultaneous radio transmissions.
"The first flight of the MQ-9 Block 1-plus follows in the footsteps of the aircraft's combat-proven Block 1 configuration and is an important technological achievement that will provide increased effectiveness, increased multi-mission flexibility, and even greater reliability," says General Atomics president Frank Pace.
The changes were requested and funded by the USAF. While the service has not yet committed to purchasing the new model, General Atomics expects a positive decision in the coming months. The production model will be called MQ-9 Block 5.
The Predator B, with 130 aircraft delivered, is a larger follow-on to the highly successful Predator A. The USAF operates the largest fleet by a wide margin, and the aircraft are in high demand for reconnaissance over Afghanistan.
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