Ukraine is negotiating the purchase of MQ-9 Reaper heavy attack drones made in the United States by General Atomics . What are these UAVs interesting for?
The war goes on. The enemy continues to destroy cities and villages, launching missile strikes on our infrastructure and residential districts. Our valiant Armed Forces give a decent rebuff, destroying manpower, equipment, aircraft and even enemy warships. Modern war also requires modern weapons. We all hear and read a lot about the high efficiency of the Turkish UAV Bayraktar, which destroys columns of armored vehicles of the occupants and strikes where they do not expect. It became a real horror for the orcs. This is a modern weapon, which is still scarce in the world. The future of military campaigns is after drones.
Of course, this is well understood by the leadership of our Armed Forces. That’s why it was decided to turn to partners from the United States to buy a state-of-the-art General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, which is considered one of the best and most powerful in the world. This combat drone is capable not only of conducting reconnaissance work on enemy territory, but also of launching missile strikes on its positions, destroying tanks, armored vehicles, shelters, fuel depots, and even damaging enemy warships. This ‘silent killer’ can significantly change the course of the war in our favor. We decided to tell in more detail about the American-made UAV, which, we hope, will soon be in service with the Armed Forces.
MQ-9 Reaper, or why General Atomics can produce modern drones
Drones MQ-9 Reaper (“Reaper”) did not appear out of nothing. General Atomics has a long and rich history of creating aircraft equipment and, best of all, is able to create it on its own. MQ-9 Reaper were created entirely at the expense of the company, and only then were proposed to the US government. Why did this happen this way?
General Atomics has long supplied the MQ-1 Predator (Predator) drones, which have proven themselves in combat during the war in Afghanistan and in the fight against terrorists. But over time, there was a need to modernize them. It should be understood that the Predators were much smaller than the Reapers and had limited development potential, not to mention the payload of weapons. However, for their time, these UAVs were still a revolutionary decision. So revolutionary that the US military still uses the Gray Eagle version.
After analyzing the arms market and its development trends, the developers of General Atomics decided to continue working in this direction and create something even better. So the engineers had to work hard to improve this drone. Thus on the basis of their own prior developments Predator B was created, which is called MQ-9 Reaper by American Air Forces. The name has become so entrenched that every type of Predator B drone that is equipped with a weapon (not every drone is capable of this) is usually called the MQ-9 Reaper.
What does MQ-9 Reaper stand for?
In the military nomenclature, we very rarely, and in fact almost never, deal with a situation where letters and numbers mean nothing. The designations in the US military, and therefore in aviation, are accurate and tell us a lot on their own. In the name MQ-9 Reaper, the letter ‘M’ means ‘multipurpose’, and ‘Q’ means that it refers to remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles. Even the ‘9’ at the end matters, it means that it is the ninth vehicle in the line of unmanned and remotely controlled unmanned aerial vehicles, ie drones. Reaper is just a common name, like Predator or Hawk.
What is MQ-9 Reaper?
When we talk about the MQ-9 Reaper, we usually mean the drone itself, which flies somewhere in the air, but, in fact, the name applies to the whole system, because the drone is only a part of the so-called remotely controlled aircraft system.
The entire system consists of a drone equipped with sensors and weapons, a ground control station, a Predator Primary Satellite Link, support systems and a qualified team of operators. As you know, all technology is quite complex, and involves a reliable and coordinated interaction of many technical components and people.
The main crew consists of the operator, who is the commander of the device, and his assistant, responsible for working with sensors and weapons. It should be noted that the system is quite flexible, you can use different sets of sensors and weapons for specific tasks, so the operation must be thoroughly prepared both from the control point and on the ground. This maximizes the capabilities of the platform.
MQ-9 Reaper is a modular reconnaissance and strike UAV of the US Army. Equipped with a turboprop engine that allows it to develop speeds over 400 km/h. The maximum flight altitude is up to 15,400 m. The maximum flight duration is 27 hours.
What are the main tasks for MQ-9 Reaper?
The main task of the MQ-9 Reaper is not to sow destruction from the sky, but we’ll talk about that at the end. After all, their main role is intelligence, that is, data collection. That’s what drones were designed for. Efficient implementation of this function and high flight duration are provided by the economic engine, a big fuel tank, a good ratio of power and weight, a wide set of sensors.
But data collection is not all it can do. Of course, effective work would be impossible without a developed communication system. In the past, if the aircraft was conducting reconnaissance (this was a long time ago, before the advent of drones), data analysis was performed after returning to base. So it was with the famous U-2, so it was many years later with other platforms. Thanks to the development of means of communication, it has become possible to transmit data almost in real time. This is how the MQ-9 Reaper drone works.
The MQ-9 Reaper can perform missions such as ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), close aviation support, or CSAR (combat search and rescue), such as searching for pilots of downed aircraft. The Americans also use them to monitor convoys and offensive operations, clear routes, set targets and control high-precision weapons.
Of course, it should be noted that compared to the Predator, the Reaper has almost six times the payload, which allows it to use a much wider range of weapons that go far beyond Hellfire missiles. Let’s talk about this in more detail.
What weapons can MQ-9 Reaper carry?
The types of weapons that MQ-9 Reapers can be equipped with include, first of all, systems such as AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, which are already successfully used on Predators. These are guided air-to-ground missiles designed to hit armored, lightly armored and other targets that require precise strikes.
Another weapon is the GBU-12 Paveway II system, ie high-precision air bombs based on the classic Mk 82 bombs, weighing 227 kg and equipped with a laser guidance system.
The MQ-9 Reaper can also use GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, a long-known JDAM bomb. The GBU-38 version is the lightest version, so it is suitable for use by drones. JDAM bombs have a control section and are aimed at the target using GPS and an inertial system. Crews also have the GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II, which can be controlled by laser and GPS/INS.
Finally, you can also use GBU-54 laser ammunition systems that combine JDAM accuracy with laser pointers. These bombs can also attack moving targets. As you can see, the military has a choice that depends on the specific task.
The drone has six external suspension points with a payload of up to 1361 kg. It can carry up to 4 air-to-ground missiles, or up to 8 in the MQ-9a modification, or 4 Hellfire missiles and two laser-guided Mark 82 bombs.
What systems does MQ-9 Reaper have on board?
What makes the MQ-9 Reaper extremely effective is its on-board multispectral targeting system, which provides visual identification of targets. In the MTS-B version, the crew has an infrared sensor, color and monochrome day camera, infrared (shortwave) camera, laser distance indicator and laser target illumination system. Of course, there is a radar.
However, the real magic happens a little later. It’s a bit like real-time post-production from film studios. Images from each sensor can be presented separately, but they can also be combined if operators decide that this will allow them to perform better, or assess the situation in the monitoring area.
But that’s not all. Basic systems can be complement by bunkers. Of particular interest is the recently tested electronic warfare system, which allows you to track radar and infrared systems, as well as produce self-defense equipment (torches and dipoles, including the latest systems such as BriteCloud). That is, the drone sees most ground targets both day and night, even if they are in shelters. There is almost no escape from the acute vision of MQ-9 Reaper cameras.
Another very interesting feature of this drone is the presence of a special container that allows you to carry, drop and control sonar buoys for anti-submarine tasks. Special radar stations adapted to work on water for marine versions of the MQ-9 Reaper are also being tested.
Work is also underway to integrate with communication containers, which will allow the devices to be used as communication and data retransmission stations for their own military. This will allow the use of drones to implement elements of a new combat concept called multi-domain battle.
Finally, let’s mention artificial intelligence, which is also already present in drones of this generation. In 2020, tests were conducted with the Agile Condor module, which uses artificial intelligence that allows you to autonomously find, track and offer targets to drone operators.
What else can we tell about MQ-9 Reaper?
The system is designed to be packed in a standard container and transported on C-130 Hercules aircraft. The entire flight control system is triple backed up, so machine failures are unlikely. The control surfaces are also duplicated. The flight of the drone can take place both in manual control mode and in completely autonomous mode.
The manufacturer estimates the operational efficiency of the system at 90%, which is considered a very good result. The flight duration of the MQ-9 Reaper reaches 27 hours (34 in the Extended Range version). This drone is truly one of the best in its category. There are talks a new series of drones, the Predator C, but it is still under development. Russian developments, I’m not talking about existing versions of UAVs, are far behind.
Specifications of MQ-9 Reaper
- Developer: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems
- Engine: Honeywell TPE331-10GD turboprop engine with 900 hp with digital electronic engine control (DEEC)
- Wingspan: 20.1 m
- Length: 11 m
- Height: 3.8 m
- Drone weight: 2223 kg
- Maximum takeoff weight: 4760 kg/ ER (extended range) version 5307 kg
- Fuel tank: 1300 kg (4000 pounds) / ER version – 2500 kg (6000 pounds).
- Payload: 1701 kg (internal and external)
- Maximum speed: 400 km/h (240 knots)
- Range: 1900 km (1000 nautical miles) / 2660 km (1400 nautical miles in ER version)
- Operating ceiling: up to 15 240 m
- Crew: 2
- Cost: $56.5 million – includes 4 cameras with sensors, ground control stations and satellite connection.
Will General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper be useful for the Armed Forces of Ukraine?
This is one of the best reconnaissance drones in the world, which will help detect enemy targets and aim missile launchers at them. With a wide range of weapons, the MQ-9 Reaper can hit tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers and armored vehicles. Hellfire missiles can even shoot down helicopters. Bombs are also powerful weapons that can be used to neutralize enemy shelters, warehouses, buildings, etc.
But most importantly, this UAV can even fly to Moscow and make some noise there. But still it is best to use it for ground purposes. The American military is very fond of the Reaper. Many terrorist groups were destroyed with its help. ‘Silent Death’ – that’s what it’s called.
MQ-9 Reaper missiles are enough to damage even a cruiser. It is also able to deal with landing ships at once. However, it is still used mainly for fighting tanks and armored vehicles, as well as for air strikes on buildings, warehouses, etc.
This drone is able to change the course of the war with the orcs, inflicting devastating blows from the air. If an agreement is reached, and the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper still appears in the service of our Armed Forces, the occupants simply will not have a chance against it. Bayraktar will be a paradise for them compared to the MQ-9 Reaper.
Then the orcs will burn in hell for sure! Everything will be Ukraine! Glory to Ukraine! Death to enemies!