"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.