The Air Force MQ-9 hunter-killer unmanned aerial vehicle, called by its maker General Atomics Aeronautical Systems a Predator B, has officially been dubbed “Reaper.” Gen. Michael Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff, chose the name, which came from airmen in the field, because “it captures the lethal nature of the new weapon system,” according to an Air Force press release. The MQ-9 is the big brother of the MQ-1 Predator. It can carry 15 times the ordnance of the Predator, fly three times as fast and can stay airborne for 14 hours fully loaded. Currently, the Air Force has seven MQ-9s and doesn’t expect to make a full rate production decision until 2009. GAAS said earlier this year the company could ramp up production at any time.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S. The bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.