The US Air Force has announced plans to retire the MQ-1 Predator Drone and transition solely to the MQ-9 Reaper drone by 2018. Flying in combat for over 20 years the MQ-1 Predator Drone has served with distinction but the Air Force felt the need to move to the MQ-9 Reaper for a multitude of reasons including its greater airspeed, more advanced sensors and the ability to carry a larger payload of munitions.

“When you ask about readiness, you have to ask ready for what?” said Air Force Col. Joseph, the 432nd Operations Group commander. “If we talk about the things we could be ready for and what we should be asking our attack squadrons to do, then transitioning to an all MQ-9 force is imperative for readiness.”

“The reason that the MQ-9 has turned into a [close air support] platform, and this is the key point, is the fusion of two things,” Joseph said. “The first thing is the technology. We took an airplane and outfitted it with more raw power and capability, but then we did the other half and matted that technology with a professional aircrew.” – U.S. Department of Defense

Watch: Air Force Drones Taking off and Landing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada

Combatant commanders and troops on the ground have requested more and more use of combat drones. This increased demand for combat support from unmanned aircraft have outpaced the capabilities of the MQ-1 Predator which was not originally designed to carry weapons.

Featured image of MQ-1B drone by US Air Force

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter, via Wikimedia Commons