August 10, 2006:
The U.S. Navy has bought one of the new MQ-9 Predator B UAVs, for $8.3 million. This includes ground control equipment, maintenance equipment and some spare parts. It's the same price the air force paid for their most recent purchase of Predator Bs. The original Predator cost $4.5 million each. The "B" model has less endurance (24 hours compared to 40 hours for the A model), but carries a heavier payload (1.7 tons). The U.S. Air Force uses Preadator B to carry Hellfire missiles, or 250 or 500 pound smart bombs. Predator B was designed as a "hunter-killer" UAV, and can go into action carrying up to 16 Hellfire missiles. The Predator B has been undergoing tests in combat zones for over five years, and some of these tests included loading the UAV up with more powerful sensors (like radar) and seeing how it would operate doing maritime reconnaissance. Several other similar (to the Predator B) UAVs are being tested for coastal patrol as well. The U.S. Navy plans to use its Predator B to develop and test a number of different combat and patrol missions.