Air Force Set to Retire MQ-1 Predator Drone in 2018
While the Air Force has been transitioning from the remotely-piloted MQ-1 Predator to the MQ-9 Reaper for some time, they have announced that, by summer 2018, the Predator will be officially retired. According to the Department of Defense, the Reaper is both a faster aircraft and able to carry more munitions, leading the Predator to be deemed less effective.
US Airman has piloted the Predator for the past 21 years and, according to a report by the Air Force Times, were primarily designed to gather intelligence and perform reconnaissance missions. Additionally, carrying weapons wasn’t apart of the original design, limiting the Predator’s potential payload to 200 pounds.
The Reaper is better equipped to manage today’s threats and has the capacity to carry a 4,000-pound payload, a 1,900 percent increase.
The newest iteration of the Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle completed its first successful combat mission last June. According to Air Force officials, the Block 5 variant of the drone flew over 16 hours in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, including with a full weapons payload that included Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Hellfire missiles.
While the Reaper has been in service for the last 10 years, the recent improvements bolstered the drone’s electrical and communications systems, making it more effective on the battlefield.
When the Air Force retires the Predator, the service stands to experience some financial savings based on the reduced number of training offerings that will be needed to support the drones and reduced equipment needs, since everything will be focused on the Reaper going forward.
While the Predator was considered a symbol of modern warfare during its early service, and a vital tool for operations, the Reaper is a better reflection of current needs based on the climate today.