Having racked up more than 420,000 flight hours, the venerable Block 1 Predator B (aka the MQ-9 Reaper) UAV that General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has been producing since 2003 has received an upgrade. The revamped Predator B gets a bump in electrical power, more secure communications, auto land capabilities, streamlined payload integration capabilities and an increase in Gross Takeoff Weight (GTOW) to handle heavier payloads or additional fuel.

The Predator B’s increased electrical power capacity comes courtesy of a new high-capacity starter generator, with the upgraded electrical system also including a backup generator that can power all the UAV’s flight critical systems, and three independent power sources to improve the aircraft’s reliability. The aircraft will also be able to carry heavier payloads or additional fuel thanks to its new trailing arm main landing gear.

Communications upgrades for the remotely piloted aircraft include dual ARC-210 VHF/UHF radios with wingtip antennas that allows for simultaneous communications between multiple air-to-air and air-to-ground parties, secure data links, and an increase in data transmission capacity.

The successful first flight test of the MQ-9 Block 1-plus took place on May 24 at GA-ASI’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, California. With the completion of development and testing, General Atomics expects a Milestone C decision, which gives approval for the aircraft to enter into the Production and Deployment (P&D) phase, in the coming months. Follow-on aircraft to the MQ-9 Block 1-plus configuration will be designated “MG-9 Block 5.”