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

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio, 21 May 2015. U.S. Air Force unmanned systems experts are ordering eight MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 attack drones from manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. in Poway, Calif.

May 21st, 2015
Air Force orders eight MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 Reaper attack drones from manufacturer General Atomics
Air Force orders eight MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 Reaper attack drones from manufacturer General Atomics
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio, 21 May 2015. U.S. Air Force unmanned systems experts are ordering eight MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 attack drones from manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. in Poway, Calif.

Officials of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, announced a $72.1 million order with General Atomics Wednesday to provide the eight additional Reaper armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The Reaper is a variation of the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator UAV that 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 as the Predator B. Users are the U.S. Air Force and the British Royal Air Force.

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.

The new model 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.

Related: Air Force to buy Raytheon multispectral UAV sensor payloads for Reaper hunter-killer drone

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 UAV 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 4 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.

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.

Related: Air Force to buy 24 late-model Reaper hunter-killer UAVs under terms of $377.4 million contract

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.

This aircraft has been acquired by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), NASA, the Royal Air Force, the Italian Air Force, and soon others, company officials say. General Atomics will build the eight Reaper attack drones in Poway, Calif., and should be finished by December 2017.

For more information contact General Atomics Aeronautical Systems online at www.ga-asi.com, or the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at www.wpafb.af.mil/aflcmc.

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