General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (Predator B) All-Weather Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV)
The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper maintains a role of hunter-killer for the United States Air Force.
Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The MQ-9 "Reaper" ("M" = multirole; "Q" = Unmanned Aerial Vehicle; "9" = series designation) offers the United States Air Force a high-level, remotely-piloted weapons platform capable of instant action and precise engagement. Appearing outwardly similar to the earlier Predator series of UAV's, the Reaper is in fact a dimensionally larger offshoot featuring more power and a broadened munitions-delivery capability. The MQ-1 "Predator" (Predator A) is also a "first generation" Predator UAV, beginning life as an unarmed reconnaissance platform under the RQ-1 designation and only being armed later in its tenure (as the MQ-1). The MQ-9 "Reaper" (Predator B) became the next logical evolution in the series, from the outset conceived of as an armed reconnaissance platform with better performance capabilities within a larger airframe. The MQ-9 Reaper was introduced for service in 2007 and was set to play a major role in the United States effort on the "War on Terror" concerning Afghanistan and Iraq.
One of the more defining physical characteristics of the MQ-9 versus the MQ-1 is the outward-cranked upturned tail fins - these are downturned on the MQ-1.
The MQ-9 system is fully-portable and can break down in sections for airlifting in a Lockheed C-130 transport or similar aircraft. The basic design of the pilot-less aircraft allows for take-off and landings to occur on nearly any runaway surface.
The Reaper is capable of carrying and delivering munitions from two external hardpoints in the form of anti-tank "Hellfire" Anti-Tank (AT) missiles and GBU-12 / GBU-38 series of JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) precision-guided bombs. The platform is categorized as a "hunter/killer", equally adept at operating in the stratosphere as a real-time reconnaissance drone and also being able to engage targets when needed. Imaging is accomplished through intensified TV, daylight TV and IR (InfraRed) sensor cameras along with an integrated laser rangefinder that doubles as a laser designator for the direct-guided JDAM munitions.
Operation of an MQ-9 Reaper is accomplished through a series of on-the-ground support vehicles and equipment stations (Ground Control Stations - GCSs). A specially-trained airman flies the Reaper via joystick control, observing the aircraft's activity through a color nose-mounted camera and other in-flight reporting systems. At the very core of any UAV program is this ability to keep allied airmen risk-free from any hostile action over contested territories.
There are plans to succeed the MQ-9 series with the larger, jet-powered, stealth-minded "Avenger" (Predator C) model.
In 2015 there were 104 examples of the MQ-9 Reaper in operational service the United States Air Force.
On February 2, 2011, the U.S. DoD announced a procurement contract with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems of Poway, California for an additional 24 MQ-9 Reaper systems at a price tag of $148,255,502 USD.
On October 17th, 2011, the US DoD announced a procurement contract with General Atomics for the delivery of two RQ-9 Reaper UAV systems, three LYNX Block 30 radars and a spare engine to the Italian Air Force to cost $15,053,962 (Contact FA8620-10-G-3038 0006).
In November of 2013 the Netherlands announced plans to field Reapers by 2017. Four are expected to make up the force. The Dutch join France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States and notable operators of the Reaper line.
By the end of 2014, some 163 Reapers had been built.
In February of 2015 it was announced that General Atomics had been awarded a $279,144,933 value contract for work on twenty-four MQ-9 Block 5 Reapers as well as associated spares and support equipment. The work is scheduled to be performed at Poway, California and be completed by September 30th, 2017.
December 2015 - The British plan to purchase twenty new MQ-9 Reaper UAVs to fulfill a portion of their "Protector" program. This stock will also succeed the existing inventory of ten MQ-9 drones.
February 2016 - A Reaper crashed at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.
July 2016 - A Reaper was lost in action over Syria as part of the U.S. commitment to the Syrian Civil War (2011-Present).