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US Air Force to Phase Out MQ-1 Predator Drone in Favor of MQ-9 Reaper

© Photo : US Air ForceAirman 1st Class Steven (left) and Airman 1st Class Taylor prepare an MQ-9 Reaper for flight during exercise Combat Hammer, May 15, 2014, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Reaper crews flew a week-long mission, where they released the GBU-12 Paveway II and AGM-114 Hellfire munitions. Steven and Taylor are MQ-9 Reaper crew chiefs from the 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
Airman 1st Class Steven (left) and Airman 1st Class Taylor prepare an MQ-9 Reaper for flight during exercise Combat Hammer, May 15, 2014, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Reaper crews flew a week-long mission, where they released the GBU-12 Paveway II and AGM-114 Hellfire munitions. Steven and Taylor are MQ-9 Reaper crew chiefs from the 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. - Sputnik International
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The US Air Force said that it is retiring the 21-year-old MQ-1 Predator drone and is transitioning to the MQ-9 Reaper.

Ex-US Drone Operator Brandon Bryant Describes Life as a Predator Pilot
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The US Air Force announced in a press release on Friday it is retiring the 21-year-old MQ-1 Predator drone and is transitioning to the MQ-9 Reaper.

"The MQ-9 is better equipped than the MQ-1 due to its high definition sensors and increased speed," the release stated. "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."

The Air Force explained the MQ-9 Reaper will be used for close air support for US troops along human piloted aircraft, and also for intelligence gathering and real-time reconnaissance.

"We are going to stop flying the MQ-1 completely by July 1, 2017," 20th Attack Squadron commander Lt. Col. James said in the release. "We're converting an MQ-1 squadron… to an MQ-9 squadron in combat operations without taking a single day out of combat."

US military commanders and ground forces have come to rely heavily on the remotely located aircrews that fly and maintain the Predator and Reaper aircraft.

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