Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
31 October 2007
Also Known As: Air 7003, Ikhana, MQ-9 Guardian, MQ-9 Hunter Killer, Predator B and SkyGuardian
Origin: United States of America
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Description: The turboprop-powered Predator-B is a larger derivative of the proven RQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). It features 500 percent more payload capacity, 30 hours endurance, and speeds of 220 knots operating at altitudes above of 50,000 feet. In addition, a fault-tolerant redundant flight control system with triple-redundant avionics provides increased reliability. The Predator B is intended to fulfill 21st century requirements for UAVs. The US Air Force ordered two Predator-B, designated the MQ-9 Hunter Killer, for evaluation. The MQ-9 will carry internal (up to 800 lbs) and external (up to 3,000 lbs) payloads. The first MQ-9 will be delivered in November 2003, and according to available information it will assume attack missions using its longer range, long endurance loitering capability. The Predator B aircraft is suitable for surveillance, reconnaissance, targeting and weapons delivery missions for military customers and scientific research and other applications for civilian operators.
On 1 September 2005, the United States Department of Homeland Security awarded General Atomics a contract valued at $14 million for one Predator B unmanned Aerial vehicle. The Predator B was ordered to perform customs and border protection equipped with Electro-Optical Sensors and the Lynx Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). In 2005 the Department of Homeland Security ordered a second Predator B. In October 2005 the US Air Force released that the MQ-9 was expected to fly twice as fast, twice as high and carry four times the weapons payload than Predator MQ-1. Along with new and expanded capabilities the MQ-9 was going to be able to deliver GBU-12, EGBU-12 and GBU-38 direct attack munitions. First MQ-9 operational units were scheduled to join the US Air Force during 2006 with deliveries of first aircraft coming from series production expected by 2008. The US Air Force announced that the MQ-9 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle was named "Reaper" on September 13, 2006. In parallel, the US Air Force announced that the MQ-9 full-rate production decision was expected in 2009.
On October 9, 2006, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) received a $34 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Custom Borders Protection (CBP) for two additional Predator B unmanned aerial systems (UAS). These systems were scheduled for delivery in fall 2007 each comprising a Predator B aircraft equipped with an EO/IR camera system, Lynx SAR/GMTI, ground control station, support equipment and logistics support. The MQ-1/RQ-1 Predator production for the United States Air Force ceased in early 2011 after completing the deliveries of 268 aircraft. The United States Air Force plans to procure up to 329 MQ-9 Reapers as replacement aircraft offering greater altitude, payload and airspeed compared with the MQ-1 UAV. As of December 2013, the US Air Force plans called for the procurement of only 343 MQ-9 aircraft.
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