SAN DIEGO, Calif., 8 Sept. 2012. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), a manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), reconnaissance radars, and electro-optic surveillance systems, has announced the first flight of the Block 1-plus Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper, an upgrade to the original Block 1 Predator B that has been in production since 2003. The MQ-9 Block 1-plus test flight occurred on May 24 at the company’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., with no discrepancies.
The MQ-9 Block 1-plus is a capability enhancement over the Block 1 configuration, which has accrued more than 420,000 flight hours across all customers. Block 1-plus was designed for increased electrical power, secure communications, auto land, heavier payload, weapons growth, and streamlined payload integration.
With the completion of development, testing, and expected Milestone C decision this fall, follow-on aircraft to the MQ-9 Block 1-plus configuration will be designated "MQ-9 Block 5."
Featuring a new starter generator, the upgraded aircraft offers an increase in electrical power capacity over the current Block 1 design. This increased power provides the aircraft with capacity for growth. In addition, the upgraded electrical system includes a backup generator which can support all flight critical functions. This improves the reliability of the electrical power system by providing three independent power sources.
Numerous new communications capabilities are also available in the Block 5, including dual ARC-210 VHF/UHF radios with wingtip antennas, allowing for simultaneous communications between multiple air-to-air and air-to-ground parties; secure data links; and an increased data transmission capacity.
Additionally, the new trailing arm main landing gear will be included in Block 5, enabling the aircraft to carry heavier payloads or additional fuel.
Predator B is currently operational with the U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force as MQ-9 Reaper and the Italian Air Force as MQ-9, with NASA as Ikhana, and with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as Predator B/Guardian. The aircraft is designed to perform multi-mission ISR and "Hunter-Killer" missions over land or sea, with more than 130 vehicles delivered to date.