DAYTON, Ohio -- Gen. (Ret.) John P. Jumper, former Air Force Chief of Staff, addresses the audience during the MQ-9 Reaper exhibit opening at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Jan. 25, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo)
DAYTON, Ohio -- Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, the Air Force’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, addresses the audience during the MQ-9 Reaper exhibit opening at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Jan. 25, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo)
DAYTON, Ohio -- Thomas J. Cassidy Jr., president of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. Aircraft Systems Group, addresses the audience during the MQ-9 Reaper exhibit opening at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Jan. 25, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo)
DAYTON, Ohio -- (left to right) Brig. Gen. John F. Thompson, the Air Force’s Program Executive Officer for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and Commander of the 303rd Aeronautical Systems Wing; Col. Christopher Coombs, Commander of the 703rd Aeronautical Systems Group; and Museum Director Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Charles D. Metcalf participate in the MQ-9 Reaper exhibit opening at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Jan. 25, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The MQ-9 is a long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) with a primary mission of locating and destroying time-critical and highly mobile targets. In addition to this "hunter-killer" mission, the MQ-9 also provides real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to military commanders.
Larger and more powerful than its predecessor, the MQ-1 Predator, the MQ-9 was originally named the Predator B. However, based upon recommendations from units in the field, the U.S. Air Force officially designated it the MQ-9 Reaper to represent its lethal nature. The "M" stands for multirole, and the "Q" designates it as an RPA.
The Reaper has a 900-hp engine, compared to the Predator's 115-hp engine, and its 64-foot wingspan is 15 feet wider than the Predator. The fuselage is wider and carries more fuel, giving the Reaper a range of 3,682 miles compared to the Predator's 454 miles. With a cruising speed of about 230 mph, the MQ-9 is almost three times faster than the Predator. This greater capability allows the Reaper to have six wing stations for external payloads instead of only two like the Predator. The Reaper can carry a mixture of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, 500-pound GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, 500-pound GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) precision-guided bombs, and various reconnaissance sensor packages.
A Reaper system consists of the aerial vehicles, a ground control station (GCS) and communication equipment. A pilot and a sensor operator operate the aircraft from a remotely located GCS. The MQ-9 aircraft can be disassembled into major components, loaded into a special container and quickly airlifted to any location around the world.
Developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. in 2000, the Predator B first flew in February 2001. After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Congress directed the Air Force to order two pre-production YMQ-9s for testing. On Oct. 17, 2003, the YMQ-9 Reaper made its first flight from the General Atomics facility in California. Because of the pressing need for an RPA with the Reaper's capabilities, the Air Force sent the two YMQ-9s to Afghanistan in 2005. The production model MQ-9 Reaper made its first flight in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM on Sept. 25, 2007.
The Reaper on display (S/N 02-4002) is one of the two pre-production YMQ-9s sent to Afghanistan. This aircraft was used for the initial weapons testing, flew 14 missions for the Department of Homeland Defense during October-November 2003, and it was the first Reaper to fly in Afghanistan. In four years, it flew 3,266 combat hours and 254 combat sorties. It came to the museum in May 2009.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Crew (remote): Two (pilot and sensor operator) Armament: Combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions Engine: Honeywell TPE331-10GD turboprop of 900 hp Load: 3,750 pounds