For the past 21 years, the Air Force has flown the MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft in combat, and for the last 10, the MQ-9 Reaper. Combined with a skilled aircrew, these aircraft provide consistent support in daily engagements making an impact downrange.
While the MQ-1 has provided many years of service, the Air Force plans to retire the MQ-1 early next year to keep up with the continuously evolving battlespace environment.
The MQ-9 is better equipped than the MQ-1 due to its increased speed, high-definition sensors and the ability to carry more munitions. These combat attributes allow the MQ-9 to complete a wider array of mission sets, which can help the Air Force stay prepared in the fight.
“When you ask about readiness, you have to ask ready for what?” said Air Force Col. Joseph, the 432nd Operations Group commander. “If we talk about the things we could be ready for and what we should be asking our attack squadrons to do, then transitioning to an all MQ-9 force is imperative for readiness.”
The fresh MQ-9 design picked up where the MQ-1 left off, boasting a nearly 4,000-pound payload and the ability to carry missiles and bombs.
These upgraded capabilities directly impact combat readiness and transitioning to just the MQ-9 will also help the aircrews stay primed and ready to go.
“Having a single aircraft buys more flexibility, simplifies training and logistics and gives our people more [career progression] opportunities,” Joseph said. “I can’t move my people in between squadrons without paying the penalty of having to train them on another aircraft”