MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned combat aerial vehicle

MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned combat aerial vehicle. The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (sometimes called Predator B) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) primarily for the United States Air Force (USAF).

MQ-9 Reaper Predator

The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (sometimes called Predator B) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) primarily for the United States Air Force (USAF).

Designed to help the United States in its counter-insurgency operations in the ongoing War on Terrorism, the MQ-9 Reaper is a further development of the MQ-1 Predator drone that had been in service long before the War on Terrorism had officially begun. The MQ-9 Reaper takes the reconnaissance and surveillance roles of the MQ-1 and combines it with a much more powerful engine and a more load-bearing wing design for weapons to effectively make it one of the first true hunter-killer drones.

Like most modern UAVs, the Reaper has an exceptionally long endurance rate for an aircraft of its size of 14 hours. This is essential however for it to fully utilize its surveillance role in combat and allows the aircraft to loiter over a target long enough for it to be identified as a civilian or a hostile. The MQ-9 may also soon gain the role of utilizing air-to-air weapons, but due to its structure not being designed for dogfighting, this may be limited purely to self-defense. Surveillance is conducted through the use of AN/APY-8 Lynx II Radar and an AN/DAS-1 MTS-B Multi-Spectral Targeting System.

The aircraft first flew in prototype form on 2nd of February, 2001 and entered service about 6 years later with the U.S. Air Force on 1st May 2007. Since it was introduced, the MQ-9 has seen service in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and Mali as of 2015. Besides surveillance, the Reaper is known to AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) in its role as a hunter-killer UCAV. There are also plans to equip the Reaper with AIM-92 Stinger missiles in order to defend itself in an air-to-air role. Nations currently utilizing the MQ-9 Reaper include the United States, France, Italy, Morocco, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

With the introduction of the MQ-9B the baseline version is known as the MQ-9A.

MQ-9 Reaper Variants

MQ-9B SkyGuardian is a newer and improved version with some modifications in order to fly in civilian airspace. It complies with European flight regulations. Formerly this drone was known as the Certified Predator B (CPB). It has a wing span of 24 m and endurance of up to 40 hours. The ground station is operated by a crew of 4 instead of 2. In 2018 this medium-altitude and long-range drone was selected by Belgium. A total of 4 drones were ordered for a price of $600 million. This makes $150 million per drone. Though this price might also include training and servicing costs. In 2018-2019 Australia announced an order for 12-16 of these armed drones. In 2020 a sale of 4 MQ-9B drones to Taiwan was approved.

Protector is a British version of the MQ-9B. In 2015 it was announced that the Royal Air Force will replace its fleet of 10 Reapers with more than 20 new armed drones. In 2018 it was announced that the US MQ-9B SkyGuardian will be designated as the Protector RG Mk.1 in the Royal Air Force service. These are due to be delivered in 2023.

Mariner was a proposed naval version of the MQ-9 Reaper. It was tailored to suit a US Navy requirement. The navalized Reaper had increased fuel capacity for an endurance of up to 49 hours. Variations of the Mariner included one with folding wings for operations aboard on aircraft carriers. It had a reinforced landing gear and an arrestor hook. This drone could carry payloads of up to 1 360 kg. However the US Navy selected a Northrop Grumman RQ-4N

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