General Atomics Aeronautical Systems announced that it successfully flew the new Block 1-plus variant of its Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft during a test. There were “no discrepancies” during the inaugural flight on May 24 at the company’s facility in Palmdale, Calif., according to the company’s Sept. 5 release. The Block 1-plus configuration is an upgrade to the original Block 1 Predator B that has been in production for the United States, Britain, and Italy since 2003. The new version offers features like increased electrical power, gross takeoff weight, and reliability; more robust communications options; streamlined payload integration; and a new trailing arm main landing gear. The company is enhancing the aircraft “to meet emerging customer requirements,” said Frank Pace, president of the company’s Aircraft Systems Group. The new variant will be designated the MQ-9 Block 5 once it enters production, states the release. Earlier this year, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems unveiled upgrade options to extend the endurance of existing Predator Bs/MQ-9s.
Boeing’s receipt of the 10th lot contract award for the KC-46 Pegasus this week leaves just three lots left to complete the Air Force’s buy of the tanker, although a further buy of 75 additional aircraft as a “bridge” to the Next-Generation Aerial-refueling System (NGAS) seems increasingly likely.