August 9, 2014: Strategy Page
The U.S. Air Force has ordered 38 MQ-9 Reaper ER UAVs. This is an upgrade of the original MQ-9 design that allows longer endurance (up to 35 hours) by carrying two fuel tanks (one under each wing) that use a new fuel management system that ensures fuel is taken from the main fuel tank and the two external tanks in such a way that the aircraft does not become unbalanced. The new version also has the engine modified so that it can generate more power on takeoff, enabling the MQ-9 to achieve heavier takeoff weight. The ER version is also getting 20 percent longer wings. Since the wings already carry fuel, this will help increase fuel and endurance to about 42 hours.
The original MQ-9 Reaper looked like the earlier 1.2 ton MQ-1 Predator but was larger. The 4.7 ton MQ-9 is an 11.6 meters (36 foot) long aircraft with a 21.3 meters (66 foot) wingspan. It has six hard points and can carry 682 kg (1,500 pounds) of weapons. These include Hellfire missiles (up to eight), two Sidewinder or two AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, two Maverick missiles, or two 227 kg (500 pound) smart bombs (laser or GPS guided). Max speed is 400 kilometers an hour, and max endurance is priginally 15 hours. The Reaper is considered a combat aircraft, to replace F-16s or A-10s in many situations. Most of the 104 Reapers built so far have been for the U.S. Air Force and since introduced in 2007 these Reapers have flown over two million hours.