Air Force orders another 36 MQ-9 Reaper UAS attack drones from General Atomics

June 12, 2017
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB – Unmanned aerial system (UAS) designers at General Atomics in Poway, Calif., will provide the U.S. Air Force with 36 new MQ-9 Reaper attack drones under terms of a $400 million contract announced last month.
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB – Unmanned aerial system (UAS) designers at General Atomics in Poway, Calif., will provide the U.S. Air Force with 36 new MQ-9 Reaper attack drones under terms of a $400 million contract announced last month.

Officials of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, are asking General Atomics Aeronautical Systems segment to provide the 36 armed Reaper UASs, which are variations of the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator UAS.

The latest version of the Reaper -- the MQ-9 Block 5 -- is designed for surveillance and attack missions using a suite of airborne sensors and the AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missile.

General Atomics refers to the Reaper Block 5 as the Predator B, which has been in production since 2013. Users are the U.S. Air Force and the British Royal Air Force. Other MQ-9 Reaper users are France, Italy, The Netherlands, and Spain.

Compared to the MQ-9 Reaper Block 1 models, the Reaper Block 5 has increased electrical power, secure communications, auto land, increased gross takeoff weight, weapons growth, and streamlined payload integration capabilities.

Related: Air Force orders eight MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 Reaper attack drones from General Atomics

The Reaper has a high-capacity starter generator and upgraded electrical system with a backup generator that can support all flight-critical functions. The drone has three independent power sources to accommodate new communications such as dual ARC-210 VHF/UHF radios with wingtip antennas for simultaneous communications among multiple air-to-air and air-to-ground parties; secure data links; and an increased data transmission capacity. The Reaper Block 5 can carry heavier payloads or additional fuel.

The turboprop-powered, multi-mission Reaper armed drone can fly for more than 27 hours between refueling at speeds to 240 knots at altitudes to 50,000 feet. The medium-endurance UAS can carry payloads as heavy as 3,850 pounds, including 3,000 pounds of external stores like Hellfire missiles.

The Reaper can carry as many as four Hellfire missiles, two GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs, or two 500-pound GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs).

Twice as fast as Predator, the Reaper carries 500 percent more payload and has nine times the horsepower, General Atomics officials say.

Related: Reaper military drone makes history in Syracuse

The Reaper has a fault-tolerant flight control system, triple-redundant avionics system, and is powered by the Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop engine, integrated with digital electronic engine control (DEEC) to improve engine performance and fuel efficiency at low altitudes.

The Reaper cab carry electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensors, Lynx multi-mode radar, multi-mode maritime surveillance radar, electronic support measures (ESM), laser designators, and a variety of weapons.

The sophisticated drone has redundant flight-control surfaces; can fly remotely piloted or autonomously; has a MIL-STD-1760 stores management system; seven external payload stations; C-band line-of-sight data link control; Ku-band beyond line-of-sight and satellite communications data link control; more than 90 percent system operational availability; and can self-deploy or fly aboard C-130 utility aircraft.

On this contract General Atomics will do the work in Poway, Calif., and should be finished by August 2020. For more information contact General Atomics Aeronautical Systems online at, or the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at

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About the Author

John Keller | Editor-in-Chief

John Keller is the Editor-in-Chief, Military & Aerospace Electronics Magazine--provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronics and optoelectronic technologies in military, space and commercial aviation applications. John has been a member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since 1989 and chief editor since 1995.

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