September 14, 2006 The Air Force has announced "Reaper" has been chosen as the name for the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle, the Air Force's first hunter-killer UAV. Formerly known as the Predator B, the MQ-9 is still in final development but is larger and much more powerful than the MQ-1 Predator and is designed to go after time-sensitive targets with persistence and precision, and should the Reaper ever be assigned your case, you are indeed very likely to become toast. Compared to the current MQ-1, which could carry two Hellfire missiles and is credited with at least one top 10 targets in Iraq, the Reaper is much more capable, and can carry 14 Hellfire II anti-armour missiles. The MQ-9 can also deploy precision guided weapons such as the GBU-12 and 500lb GBU-38 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition). Similarly, the Reaper can carry an internal sensor payload more than twice that of MQ-1, now has an operational ceiling of 50,000 ft and can cruise above clouds at 260 knots for 14 hours at a time. In announcing the new moniker, Gen. T. Michael Moseley stressed that the key advantage of the UAV is not keeping pilots out of harm's way, but the persistence UAVs can inherently provide.
"The Reaper represents a significant evolution in UAV technology and employment. We've moved from using UAVs primarily in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance roles before Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, to a true hunter-killer role with the Reaper," he said.
The Air Force has seven MQ-9 Reapers in its inventory, with a full-rate production decision expected in 2009.
A 900 hp turbo-prop engine, compared to the 119 hp Predator MQ-1 engine, powers the aircraft. It has a 64-foot wingspan and carries more than 15 times the ordnance of the Predator, flying almost three times the Predator's cruise speed.
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