Third French Predator

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems solutions, announced on May 29 that it has delivered a third Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper RPA to the French Ministry of Defense. Delivered less than two months after contract award, the aircraft joins two other French Reapers in service, which together have accumulated over 4,000 flight hours since operations began in January 2014.

USAF MQ-9 Reaper
USAF MQ-9 Reaper

«This latest order from the French Defense Procurement and Technology Agency (Direction Générale de l’Armement – DGA) is a testament to Reaper’s ability to enhance the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) of the French Air Force in support of national, NATO, and other coalition operations», said Frank W. Pace, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI.

Pilots and sensor operators from Drone Squadron 1/33 ‘Belfort,’ 709 Air Base Cognac-Château Bernard are performing mission operations to include delivering increased battlefield situational awareness, augmenting combat search and rescue, and providing ground troop support. A total of 12 aircraft are planned to be in service by 2019.

The multi-mission Predator B is a long-endurance, medium-high-altitude RPA that can be used for ISR as well as targeting missions. The current aircraft configuration features an extensive payload capacity (850 lbs/386 kg internally, 3,000 lbs/1,361 kg externally), with a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet/15,240 meters, and can stay aloft for up to 27 hours.

Predator B is currently operational with the U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force as MQ-9 Reaper and with the Italian Air Force as MQ-9. Predator B provides unparalleled close air support and persistent situational awareness over land or sea to coalition forces, demonstrating proven NATO interoperability. Some 240 Predator B aircraft have amassed more than one million flight hours since its first flight in 2001.

Italian Air Force MQ-9
Italian Air Force MQ-9


Predator B RPA

Designated MQ-9 Reaper by its U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force customers, the turboprop-powered, multi-mission Predator B RPA was developed with GA-ASI funding and provides significantly greater capabilities than Predator. First flown in 2001, Predator B is a highly sophisticated development built on the experience gained with the company’s battle-proven Predator RPA and is a major evolutionary leap forward in overall performance and reliability.

Featuring unmatched operational flexibility, Predator B has an endurance of over 27 hours, speeds of 240 KTAS/276 mph/444 km/h, can operate up to 50,000 feet/15,240 meters, and has a 3,850-pound (1,746 kilogram) payload capacity that includes 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of external stores. Twice as fast as Predator, the aircraft carries 500% more payload and has nine times the horsepower. It provides a long-endurance, persistent surveillance/strike capability for the war fighter.

An extremely reliable aircraft, Predator B is equipped with a fault-tolerant flight control system and triple redundant avionics system architecture. It is engineered to meet and exceed manned aircraft reliability standards.

Predator B is powered by the flight-certified and proven Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop engine, integrated with Digital Electronic Engine Control (DEEC), which significantly improves engine performance and fuel efficiency, particularly at low altitudes.

NASA Predator B ("Ikhana")
NASA Predator B (“Ikhana”)

The aircraft is highly modular and is configured easily with a variety of payloads to meet mission requirements. Predator B is capable of carrying multiple mission payloads to include:

  • Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR);
  • Lynx Multi-mode Radar;
  • Multi-mode maritime surveillance radar;
  • Electronic Support Measures (ESM);
  • Laser designators;
  • Various weapons packages.

Predator B continues to improve and evolve, making it more relevant for its customers’ emerging needs. A new variant, Predator B ER, has been designed with field-retrofittable capabilities such as wing-borne fuel pods and a new reinforced landing gear that extends the aircraft’s already impressive endurance from 27 hours to 34 hours while further increasing its operational flexibility.

In 2016, the aircraft will evolve again when its wingspan will grow from 66 feet/20 meters to 79 feet/24 meters to hold the fuel that was previously stored in the fuel pods. This configuration will deliver 42 hours of endurance.

This aircraft has been acquired by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Royal Air Force, the Italian Air Force, the French Air Force, and soon others.

Guardian (Maritime Predator B Variant)
Guardian (Maritime Predator B Variant)



  • Triple-redundant flight control system
  • Redundant flight control surfaces
  • Remotely piloted or fully autonomous
  • MIL-STD-1760 stores management system
  • 7 external stations for carriage of payloads
  • C-Band line-of-sight data link control
  • Ku-Band Beyond Line-of-Sight (BLOS)/SATCOM data link control
  • Over 90% system operational availability
  • C-130 transportable (or self-deploys)
Predator B ER
Predator B ER


Wing Span 66 feet/20 m
Length 36 feet/11 m
Powerplant Honeywell TPE331-10
Maximum Gross Take-Off Weight (GTOW) 10,500 lbs/4,763 kg
Fuel Capacity 3,900 lbs/1,769 kg
Payload Capacity 850 lbs/386 kg internally
3,000 lbs/1,361 kg externally
Power 11.0 kW/45.0 kVA (Block 5) (redundant)
Maximum Altitude 50,000 feet/15,240 m
Max Endurance 27 hours
Maximum Air Speed 240 KTAS/276 mph/444 km/h
Weapons Hellfire missiles
GBU-12 laser-guided bombs
GBU-49 laser-JDAM
Payloads MTS-B EO/IR
Lynx Multi-mode Radar
Multi-mode maritime radar
Automated Identification System (AIS)
Communications relay


Perform multi-mission Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and “Hunter-Killer” missions over land or sea