The U.S. Air Force prepares to transition to the General Atomics-built MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft this year as the service branch plans to retire its MQ-1 Predator RPAs in 2018 in an effort to build up readiness and keep pace with the changing combat environment.
The 20th attack squadron at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri has begun the transition phase for MQ-9 drones, the Air Force reported Thursday.
Col. James, commander of the 20th attack squadron, said the squadron plans to cease operations of its MQ-1s by July 1 in order to exclusively fly Reapers by the end of this year.
“Having a single aircraft buys more flexibility, simplifies training and logistics and gives our people more [career progression] opportunities,” said Col. Joseph, commander of the 432nd operations group.
The MQ-9 Reaper drone is equipped with high-definition sensors and designed to carry up to 4,000 pounds of missiles, bombs and other weapon payloads.
The RPA also works to support missions such as close air support, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, combat search and rescue and precision strike operations.