General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

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). The MQ-9 and other UAVs are referred to as Remotely Piloted Vehicles/Aircraft (RPV/RPA) by the USAF to indicate their human ground controllers.[2][3]

MQ-9 Reaper / Predator B
U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper
Role Unmanned combat aerial vehicle
National origin United States
Manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems
First flight 2 February 2001; 21 years ago (2001-02-02)
Introduction 1 May 2007
Status In service
Primary users United States Air Force
Number built 316+ as of 2016[1]
Developed from General Atomics MQ-1 Predator
Developed into

The MQ-9 is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance.[4] In 2006, the 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."[4]

The MQ-9 is a larger, heavier, and more capable aircraft than the earlier General Atomics 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 (compared to the Predator's 115 hp (86 kW) piston engine). The greater power allows the Reaper to carry 15 times more ordnance payload and cruise at about three times the speed of the MQ-1.[4] The aircraft is monitored and controlled by aircrew in the Ground Control Station (GCS), including weapons employment.[5]

In 2008, the New York Air National Guard 174th Attack Wing began the transition from F-16 piloted fighters to MQ-9A Reapers, becoming the first fighter unit to convert entirely to unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) use.[6] In March 2011, the U.S. Air Force was training more pilots for advanced unmanned aerial vehicles than for any other single weapons system.[7] The Reaper is also used by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the militaries of several other countries.

The USAF operated over 300 MQ-9 Reapers as of May 2021,[8] with 16 additional units on the way as authorized by the FY2021 Congressional budget. Several new equipment upgrades had been retrofitted onto some of the active MQ-9 aircraft to improve performance in "high-end combat situations" as of that date, to be included in all further procurements of the MQ-9. 2035 is the projected end of the service life of the MQ-9 fleet.[8]

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