Published: 1 January 2009
Air & Space Power Journal - Espaņol  Cuarto  Trimestre 2008


MQ-9 ReaperMission

The MQ-9 Reaper is a medium-to-high altitude, long endurance unmanned aircraft system. The MQ-9's primary mission is as a persistent hunter-killer against emerging targets to achieve joint force commander objectives. The MQ-9's alternate mission is to act as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset, employing sensors to provide real-time data to commanders and intelligence specialists at all levels.


The typical system consists of several air vehicles, a ground control station, or GCS, communication equipment/links, spares and people who can be a mix of active-duty and contractor personnel. The crew for the MQ-9 is a pilot and a sensor operator, who operate the aircraft from a remotely located GCS. To meet combatant commanders' requirements, the MQ-9 delivers tailored capabilities using mission kits that may contain various weapons and sensor payload combinations.

The MQ-9 baseline system has a robust sensor suite for targeting. Imagery is provided by an infrared sensor, a color/monochrome daylight TV and an image-intensified TV. The video from each of the imaging sensors can be viewed as separate video streams or fused with the infrared sensor video. The laser rangefinder/designator provides the capability to precisely designate targets for laser-guided munitions. Synthetic aperture radar will enable Joint Direct Attack Munitions targeting. The aircraft is also equipped with a color nose camera, generally used by the pilot for flight control.

Each MQ-9 aircraft can be disassembled into main components and loaded into a container for air deployment worldwide in Air Force airlift assets such as the C-130 Hercules. The MQ-9 air vehicle operates from standard U.S. airfields.


The U.S. Air Force proposed the MQ-9 system in response to the Department of Defense request for Global War on Terrorism initiatives. It is larger and more powerful than the MQ-1 Predator and is designed to go after time-sensitive targets with persistence and precision, and destroy or disable those targets. The "M" is the Department of Defense designation for multi-role and "Q" means unmanned aircraft system. The "9" refers to the series of purpose-built remotely piloted aircraft systems.

In July 2004, the Air Combat Command Commander approved the MQ-9 Enabling Concept Document. The MQ-9 is operated by the 42nd Attack Squadron and based at Creech Air Force Base, Nev.

General Characteristics

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

Source: US Air Force, September 2008

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