The MQ-9 "Reaper" ("M" = multirole; "Q" = Unmanned Aerial Vehicle; "9" = series designation) offers the United States Air Force a high-level, remotely-piloted weapons platform capable of instant action and precise engagement. Appearing outwardly similar to the earlier Predator series of UAV's, the Reaper is in fact a dimensionally larger offshoot featuring more power and a broadened munitions-delivery capability. The MQ-1 "Predator" (Predator A) is also a "first generation" Predator UAV, beginning life as an unarmed reconnaissance platform under the RQ-1 designation and only being armed later in its tenure (as the MQ-1). The MQ-9 "Reaper" (Predator B) became the next logical evolution in the series, from the outset conceived of as an armed reconnaissance platform with better performance capabilities within a larger airframe. The MQ-9 Reaper was introduced for service in 2007 and was set to play a major role in the United States effort on the "War on Terror" concerning Afghanistan and Iraq.
One of the more defining physical characteristics of the MQ-9 versus the MQ-1 is the outward-cranked upturned tail fins - these are downturned on the MQ-1.
The MQ-9 system is fully-portable and can break down in sections for airlifting in a Lockheed C-130 transport or similar aircraft. The basic design of the pilot-less aircraft allows for take-off and landings to occur on nearly any runaway surface.
The Reaper is capable of carrying and delivering munitions from two external hardpoints in the form of anti-tank "Hellfire" Anti-Tank (AT) missiles and GBU-12 / GBU-38 series of JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) precision-guided bombs. The platform is categorized as a "hunter/killer", equally adept at operating in the stratosphere as a real-time reconnaissance drone and also being able to engage targets when needed. Imaging is accomplished through intensified TV, daylight TV and IR (InfraRed) sensor cameras along with an integrated laser rangefinder that doubles as a laser designator for the direct-guided JDAM munitions.
Operation of an MQ-9 Reaper is accomplished through a series of on-the-ground support vehicles and equipment stations (Ground Control Stations - GCSs). A specially-trained airman flies the Reaper via joystick control, observing the aircraft's activity through a color nose-mounted camera and other in-flight reporting systems. At the very core of any UAV program is this ability to keep allied airmen risk-free from any hostile action over contested territories.
There are plans to succeed the MQ-9 series with the larger, jet-powered, stealth-minded "Avenger" (Predator C) model.
- Ground Attack
- Reconnaissance (RECCE)
- Special Forces
36.09 ft (11 m)
65.94 ft (20.1 m)
12.50 ft (3.81 m)
3,704 lb (1,680 kg)
10,494 lb (4,760 kg)
230 mph (370 kph; 200 kts)
50,000 feet (15,240 m; 9.47 miles)
1,878 miles (3,022 km; 1,632 nm)
Mission-specific ordnance can include any combination of the following across four double-hardpoints:
AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles, GBU-12 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM).
RQ-1 "Predator" - Unarmed Reconnaissance Drone on which the MQ-1 is based on.
MQ-1 "Predator" - Armed Reconnaissance Drone of the RQ-1 model.
MQ-9 "Reaper" - Base Series Designation; derived from the RQ-1 Predator model though the Reaper is larger and features more powerful performance and payload capabilities.
MQ-9 "Guardian" - Maritime Patrol Variant used by United States Customs and Border Protection Agency; at least two examples in use; fitted with special maritime search radar and electro-optical equipment.
MQ-9B "SkyGuardian" - Certified for European airspace flight regulations (NATO STANAG 4671); features sense-and-avoid capability, lighting strike protection, 40-hour endurance and 79-foot wingspan mainplanes with winglet tips.
"SeaGuardian" - Maritime Patrol variant offered by GA-ASI.