The MQ-9 "Reaper" ("M" = multirole; "Q" = Unmanned Aerial Vehicle; "9" = series

designation) offers the United States Air Force a high-level, remotely-piloted

weapons platform capable of instant action and precise engagement. Appearing very

similar outwardly to the original Predator series of UAV's, the Reaper is in fact a

larger derivative featuring more power in terms of both powerplant and munitions-

delivery capabilities. The RQ-1/MQ-1 "Predator" (Predator A) is a first generation

series Predator UAV, starting life as an unarmed reconnaissance platform (RQ-1)

and only being armed later in her tenure (becoming the MQ-1). The MQ-9 "Reaper" (Predator B) became the next logical evolution in the series, starting out from the gates as an armed reconnaissance

platform with better performance capabilities in a larger airframe. The MQ-9 system is

fully-portable and can break down in sections for airlifting in a Lockheed C-130

transport. The basic design of the pilot-less aircraft still allows for take-off and

landings to occur on any given runway.


The MQ-9 Reaper was inducted into service in 2004 to play a major role in the United

States effort on the "War on Terrorism". The Reaper is capable of carrying and

delivering munitions from two external hardpoints in the form of anti-tank Hellfire

missiles and the GBU-12 and GBU-38 series of JDAM bombs. In essence, the Reaper is

termed a "hunter/killer" system, equally capable of operating in the stratosphere as a

real-time reconnaissance drone and being able to engage said target as needed.

Imaging is accomplished through intensified TV, daylight TV and IR sensor cameras

along with an integrated laser rangefinder that doubles as a laser designator for the

direct-guided JDAM munitions.


Operation of an MQ-9 Reaper is accomplished through a series of on-the-ground Top 10 Fighters of All

support vehicles and equipment stations. A single qualified airman flies the Reaper Time

via joystick control, observing the activity through a color nose-mounted camera and

other in-flight reporting systems. At the very core of any UAV program is this ability to

keep allied airmen risk-free from any hostile action.


As of this writing, there are 9 examples of the MQ-9 Reaper in full operational service,

all with the United States Air Force active forces. The MQ-9 will be superseded by the

larger, jet-powered, stealthy Avenger (Predator C) series of combat UAV in the near



On February 2, 2011, the US DoD announced a procurement contract with General

Atomics Aeronautical Systems of Poway, California for an additional 24 MQ-9 Reaper

systems at a price tag of $148,255,502 USD.


On October 17th, 2011, the US DoD announced a procurement contract with General

Atomics for the delivery of two RQ-9 Reaper UAV systems, three LYNX Block 30 radars

and a spare engine to the Italian Air Force to cost $15,053,962 (Contact FA8620-10-

G-3038 0006).