The US Air Force plans to retire the MQ-1Predator Attack drone in early 2018 and shift to the more modern MQ-9 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.
While the MQ-1 and the crews who flew them proved their weapons proficiency, it was never originally designed to carry weapons, resulting in a limited 200-pound payload. The demand for more attack capabilities exceeded the MQ-1s design, a USAF release said.
The fresh MQ-9 design picked up where the MQ-1 left off, boasting a nearly 4,000-pound payload with the ability to carry both 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.
The MQ-1 began as the RQ-1 Predator, an unarmed RPA flown by line-of-sight. Some changes include the adding of the Multi-Spectral Targeting system, the addition of weapons and remote-split operations capability.
"The MQ-1 is a great example where the Air Force took a technology demonstrator and turned it into a major weapons system having daily effects on the battlefield," James said.
"We have found how to fly an imperfect weapons system very well, and I think we have maximized the effectiveness that we can get out of the MQ-1.
I have no doubt that we will continue to find ways to be more effective in combat with the MQ-9", the statement quoted a USAF officer as saying.