Air Force asks General Atomics to build year's worth of MQ-9 Reaper unmanned combat drones

Nov. 6, 2018
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio – Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) experts at General Atomics will build additional MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft for surveillance and attack under terms of a $263.4 million contract announced Monday.
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio –Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) experts at General Atomics will build additional MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft for surveillance and attack under terms of a $263.4 million contract announced Monday.

Officials of the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, are asking the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems segment in Poway, Calif., for the production of the MQ-9 Reaper combat drones in the fiscal 2018 production configuration.

The Reaper, a variation of the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator UAV, is designed for surveillance and attack missions using a suite of airborne sensors and the AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missile. Last December Air Force officials started a project to integrate the Raytheon laser-guided small diameter bomb (SDB) on the Reaper.

The latest version of the combat UAV, the Reaper Block 5, has increased electrical power, secure communications, auto land, increased gross takeoff weight, weapons growth, and streamlined payload integration capabilities, compared with earlier Reaper Block 1 versions.

The Block 5 model has a high-capacity starter generator and upgraded electrical system with a backup generator that can support all flight-critical functions.

Related: Air Force asks General Atomics to upgrade 122 MQ-9 Block 5 Reaper unmanned attack drones

The MQ-9 Reaper armed 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 without refueling at speeds to 240 knots at altitudes to 50,000 feet. The medium-endurance UAV can carry payloads as heavy as 3,850 pounds, including 3,000 pounds of external stores like Hellfire missiles and the Small Diameter Bomb.

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.

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.

Related: General Atomics to boost UAV firepower by integrating small-diameter bomb on MQ-9 Reaper

The Reaper can 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 combat UAV 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.

This aircraft has been acquired by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), NASA, the United Kingdom Royal Air Force, the Italian Air Force, and soon others, company officials say. On this order General Atomics will do the work in Poway, Calif., and should be finished by November 2021.

For more information contact General Atomics Aeronautical Systems online at, , or the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at

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