The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (formerly named Predator B) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remote controlled or autonomous flight operations, developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) primarily for the United States Air Force. UAVs are also referred to as drones. The MQ-9 and other UAVs are referred to as Remotely Piloted Vehicles/Aircraft (RPV/RPA) by the U.S. Air Force to indicate their human ground controllers. The MQ-9 is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance.
The MQ-9 is a larger, heavier, and more capable aircraft than the earlier MQ-1 Predator; it can be controlled by the same ground systems used to control MQ-1s. The Reaper has a 950-shaft-horsepower (712 kW) turboprop engine, far more powerful than the Predator's 115 hp (86 kW) piston engine. The power increase allows the Reaper to carry 15 times more ordnance payload and cruise at almost three times the speed of the MQ-1. The aircraft is monitored and controlled by aircrew in the Ground Control Station (GCS), including weapons employment.
In 2008, the New York Air National Guard 174th Fighter Wing began the transition from F-16 piloted fighters to MQ-9 Reapers, becoming the first fighter squadron conversion to an all–unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) attack squadron. In March 2011, the U.S. Air Force was training more pilots for advanced unmanned aerial vehicles than for any other single weapons system. The Reaper is also used by the United States Navy, the CIA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, NASA, and others.
Then Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force General T. Michael Moseley said, "We've moved from using UAVs primarily in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance roles before Operation Iraqi Freedom, to a true hunter-killer role with the Reaper."
|Role||Unmanned combat air vehicle|
|National origin||United States|
|Manufacturer||General Atomics Aeronautical Systems|
|First flight||2 February 2001|
|Introduction||1 May 2007|
|Primary users||United States Air Force
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Royal Air Force
|Program cost||US$11.8 billion
|Unit cost||US$16.9 million (flyaway cost, 2013)
|Developed from||General Atomics MQ-1 Predator|
|Developed into||General Atomics Avenger|
The typical MQ-9 system is composed of multiple aircraft, ground-control stations, satellites, and flight and maintenance crews. The aircraft is powered by a 950 horsepower turboprop, with a maximum speed of about 260 knots (300 miles per hour or 483 km per hour) and a cruising speed of 150-170 knots (278 to 315 km/hour). With a 66 ft (20 m) wingspan, and a maximum payload of 3,800 lb (1,700 kg), the MQ-9 can be armed with a variety of weaponry, including Hellfire missiles and 500-lb laser-guided bomb units. The Reaper has a range of 3,682 mi (5,926 km) and an operational altitude of 50,000 ft (15,000 m), which makes it especially useful for long-term loitering operations, both for surveillance and support of ground troops.
All Predator variants are designed for military operations, not to operate among crowded airline traffic. The Predator lacks systems capable of complying with FAA See-And-Avoid regulations.
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