The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper which is also known as the Predator B is the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) that has been developed by the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems to serve the USAF. The UDSAF refers to not only MQ-9 Reaper but other likely UAVs as the RPV/RPA (Remotely Piloted Vehicles/Aircraft) which indicates that these aircraft are being controlled by the controllers on the ground.
The MQ-9 Reaper holds the title for being the USAF’s first-ever hunter-killer with capabilities like high altitude surveillance and long-range endurance. The control and monitoring of the MQ-9 Reaper is carried out by the GCS (Ground Control Station) which also includes them controlling the weapons deployment.
In addition to USAF, the MQ-9 Reaper is also being used by the United States, US Custom and Border Protection and CIA along with the NASA.
According to an estimate USAF currently operates nearly 195 of these MQ-9 Reapers and they have plans to keep this UAV until the 2030s.
For our readers, we have gathered a bunch of amazing facts about General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper.
An MQ-9 Reaper is powered by a single Honeywell TPE331-10GD turboprop engine which creates a thrust of 900 SHP. This much power allows the Reaper to fly at a cruising speed of 230 mph for a range of 1150 miles at an altitude of 50000 feet. The aircraft is equipped to carry following weapons onboard.
- AGM-114 Hellfire missiles
- GBU-12 Paveway II
- GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions
The thing that makes the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper so great is its ability to be a silent hunter that can stalk a target for nearly 14 hours while being ultra quiet and having low radar profile. This is until the hunter deploys its ordnance of 2 tons which includes 500 lbs JDAM that it can fire with near pinpoint precision.
The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper has been in service for nearly 9 years and during this time, this AV has managed to complete hundreds of combat mission which is a record when compared to other UAVs used in War on Terror.
Although the USAF holds a fleet of fighter jets that can not only move with supersonic speeds and amazing ability to strike down the targets, the ability of the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper lies in its suite of unique sensors along with its unmatched endurance.
The half of the load-bearing capacity of the MQ-9 Reaper can be replaced with external fuel pods which allow for the MQ-9 Reaper to travel in the air for about 42 hours in combat missions. This never before seen ability of the MQ-9 Reaper to loiter in the air and keep track of the enemy’s movement for a long time has made it a real ace in hand of the USAF.
Every strike from the MQ-9 Reaper is made with an intention to draw pout more high-valued targets but the platform of the UAV only allows for it to have a minimum amount of ordnance. This is why it is quite common that during the missions of MQ-9 Reaper for War on Terror, they mostly tend to strike down the high valued targets such as the leaders or other senior terrorists that appear in the open quite rarely.
These targets have a better chance of escaping during the bombing runs from a fighter jet as the jet fighter tends to make a traditional attack and then zips out of the area in mere minutes, thus giving time for these leaders to make their escape.
The main advantage that makes MQ-9 Reaper better than any other UAV is its MTS-B (Multi-Spectral Targeting System) which is a device that has a suite of robust visual sensors. These sensors are able to even keep track and then target even the faster-moving enemy targets. This visual system makes use of the following equipment.
- Side searching radar
- Infrared sensors
- TV cameras with image intensifying capability
- Laser range designator/finder
- Laser illuminator
This array of sensor suite allows for the controllers of the MQ-9 Reaper to make the target evaluation in real-time as compared to the combat aircraft that needs to rely on information from the ground spotter or make their own hasty evaluation while being airborne.
A single MQ-9 Reaper is controlled by two crew members; one is the pilot of the UAV and other is the senior operator and both of them work from the Creech Air Force base located in Arizona. The place is far away from any distractions of the actual combat. There, these crew members can simply get the latest briefs on intelligence, advice from the specialists and guidance from the senior command over a phone call.
All of these resources are not available in a fighter bomber’s cockpit and this adds for the lethality as well as accuracy for these drones during their missions.
The details of the mission carried out by the MQ-9 Reaper are being kept classified. Still, it is safe to assume that MQ-9 Reaper has made not hundreds but thousands of kills on terrorists. They have not only operated in Iraq or Afghanistan but have also made their surgical strikes in the Central and North Africa as well as Southwest Asia.
According to rumors, the MQ-9 Reaper has been labeled as the killer for the leaders for many of the following terrorist organizations.
- Al Qaeda
- Boko Haram
The one target of high value that the US government admits of killing publically is one of the senior members of the ISIS named Mohammed Emwazi aka Jihadi John. That man was responsible for killing many hostages of America and Europe that were kept in Syria.
Everyone has their own opinion about the Assignation Program that is being carried out by the US from this UAV. Still, the MQ-9 Reaper is the aircraft that has made this theater of war a reality.
This UAV has actually propelled the world in the development of the newer and newer UAV designs and most of them are based on the design of MQ-9 Reaper. This is the drone that represents the future face of Aerial Warfare.