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The MQ-9 Reaper Hunter Killer

The MQ-9 Reaper Hunter Killer

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) - Predator RQ-1 / MQ-1 / MQ-9 Reaper

MQ-Reaper is has been deployed to fight its first combat mission in Iraq. Resembling a futuristic remote controlled aircraft, the USAF’s newest addition represents the future of combat aviation.

MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

The unmanned aerial vehicle knows as the Reaper, is the predecessor to the successful RQ-1 (MQ-1) Predator. The Predator was developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems from July 1994 to June 1996 and was later designated the MQ-1 Predator. The system was designed to provide constant intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to US strategic and tactical forces. The Predator’s first flight took place in 1994 and production begun later in 1997.

The Predator can fly at around 70 mph, slow enough to hide from such radars. It can fly for over 24 hours and out over 500 miles.

MQ-1 Predator UAV

The aircraft is equipped with a color nose camera (generally used by the air vehicle operator for flight control), a day variable aperture TV camera, a variable aperture infrared camera (for low light/night) and a SAR for looking through smoke, clouds or haze. The SAR provides all-weather surveillance capability; it has a resolution of 1 foot. MQ-1 is armed with 2 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

With the success of the MQ-1 in combat, General Atomics anticipated the Air Force’s desire for an upgraded aircraft, and using its own funds, set about redesigning Predator. The upgrade included several mods such as a more powerful turbocharged engine and wing de-icing systems to enable year-round operations.

The revised Predator was originally designated the Predator B which later became the MQ-9 following a jet-engine upgrade. The upgraded Predator has been operational in the Balkans since April 2001.
In March 2005, the USAF awarded a further contract for the System Design and Development (SDD) of Predator, the result was the MQ-9 Reaper Hunter / Killer.

The MQ-9 Reaper is able to fly faster, higher and can carry more weapons than the Predator. The Reaper serves as a hunter-killer aircraft and also doubles as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset.

The aircraft is powered by a single Honeywell TP331-10 engine, producing 950 shp; this provides a maximum airspeed of 260 kts and a cruise speed for maximum endurance of 150-170 kts. It can operate at a height of 50,000ft and carries a maximum internal payload of 800lb with external payload over 3,000lb.

It can carry up to four Hellfire II anti-armor missiles and two laser-guided bombs (GBU-12 or EGBU-12) and 500lb GBU-38 JDAM (joint direct attack munition).
Recently in May 2008, a USAF Reaper successfully test dropped four Raytheon GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II 500lb bombs, which have laser and GPS guidance.

The Predators UAV ground control station is built into a single 30ft trailer, containing pilot and payload operator consoles, three Boeing data exploitation and mission planning consoles and two synthetic aperture radar workstations together with satellite and line-of-sight ground data terminals.

MQ-9 Predator Specifications:

  • Primary Function: Unmanned hunter/killer weapon system
  • Contractor: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
  • Power Plant: Honeywell TPE331-10GD turboprop engine
  • Thrust: 900 shaft horsepower maximum
  • Wingspan: 66 feet (20.1 meters)
  • Length: 36 feet (11 meters)
  • Height: 12.5 feet (3.8 meters)
  • Weight: 4,900 pounds (2,223 kilograms) empty
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 10,500 pounds (4,760 kilograms)
  • Fuel Capacity: 4,000 pounds (602 gallons)
  • Payload: 3,750 pounds (1,701 kilograms)
  • Speed: cruise speed around 230 miles per hour, (200 knots)
  • Range: 3,682 miles (3,200 nautical miles)
  • Ceiling: up to 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
  • Armament: Combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
  • Crew (remote): Two (pilot and sensor operator)
  • Unit Cost: $53.5 million (includes four aircraft with sensors) (fiscal 2006 dollars)
  • Initial operating capability: October 2007
  • Inventory: Active force, 10; ANG, 0; Reserve, 0

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