Long endurance in the air, designed to destroy stationary and mobile ground targets, advanced sensors, no risk of endangering the pilot's life. This is how can be briefly described the multi-purpose unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) MQ-9 Reaper, a representative of the growing phenomenon of combat drones.
Two decades ago, drones and UAVs were primarily used for intelligence gathering or reconnaissance operations. However, this changed with the arrival of the MQ-1 Predator in 2001, which, despite its imperfections, has also made its way into many movies and computer games. A major shift came six years later with the arrival of the MQ-9 Reaper, developed by General Atomics. The Reaper is bigger, heavier, faster, and above all, much better armed than its predecessor.
It can be equipped with four AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, a pair of GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs, and air-to-air missile testing is also underway. One of the important parameters of drones is also endurance in the air - how long the aircraft can operate without having to land and refuel. A fully armed Reaper can hover over a battlefield for up to 14 hours, or up to 30 hours without armament. That's considerably longer than the working hours of a three-man crew operating the aircraft remotely. In addition to potentially engaging ground targets, the Reaper can perform reconnaissance tasks using its advanced sensors and radars, bringing significantly improved operational awareness. For these purposes, Reaper is used by NASA, for example, in monitoring forest fires or spaceports.
Primarily, the Reaper is used by the United States Air Force, which has approximately 350 aircraft. It can also be found in the MQ-9B Sky/Sea Guardian version in the French, British and Belgian air forces. Since its entry into service in 2007, the aircraft has also participated in several missions. For example, it has been deployed in Iraq and Syria in the fight against the so-called Islamic State, and Reaper aircraft are also involved in patrolling the Indian Ocean to protect shipping lanes from pirate attacks.
|Empty weight||2,223 kg|
|Max takeoff weight||4,760 kg|
|Maximum speed||482 km/h|
|Service ceiling||15,420 m|
|Endurance||up to 30 h|