Developed by the United States, and operated by the U.S. Air Force, U.K., Italy, Turkey, the UK and the US Border Patrol, the MQ-9 Reaper is medium-to-high altitude, long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle. It is a larger descendant of the MQ-1 Predator, but can be taken apart, put into shipping containers, and carried by a C-130 Hercules or larger aircraft.
The drone aircraft can be used both as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform as well as a "hunter-killer" for armed reconnaissance. The Royal Air Force tends to emphasize the former and the USAF the latter, but the same aircraft does both.
Since October 2009, in the Afghanistan War (2001-) aircraft are launched and recovered from U.S. Air Force facilities in Afghanistan, but operationally controlled from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada in the continental United States. They are acknowledged to be flying in Afghanistan, and it is an open secret that they operate in Pakistan and possibly other nearby states, perhaps under Central Intelligence Agency operational control.
- Primary Function: Unmanned hunter/killer weapon system, using GOLIS and laser-guided weapons
- Secondary function: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
- 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)
- 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
For direct viewing, it has an infrared sensor, a color/monochrome daylight TV and an image-intensified TV. These can be used separate video streams or fused with the IR sensor video.
Continuing upgrades include a signals intelligence package derived from the Airborne Signals Intelligence Platform (ASIP) series used on the U-2 Dragon Lady, MQ-1 Predator and MQ-4 Global Hawk. It will also have "a wide area airborne surveillance (WAAS) sensor developed by Sierra Nevada called Gorgon Stare, which can provide 12 different streams of full motion video simultaneously. "
- Reaper UAV now flying in Afghanistan, Air Force News, 11 October 2009
- U.S. Air Force, MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aircraft System
- Rob Coppinger (8 September 2009), "UVSI Special: The UAVs to watch this decade", Flight Global
- Sean Maroney (2 October 2009), MQ-9 Reaper Kills Top Militant Tahir Yuldashev in Pakistan, Outlook Series