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 The MQ-9 will be superseded by the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-