The MQ-9 Block 5 Reaper attack drones will be provided to the U.S. Air Force by General Atomics. Under the terms of a USD$279 million contract, 24 Reapers will be delivered. Spare parts support and other equipment support will be provided. The aircraft has been acquired by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Royal Air Force, and the Italian Air Force. Essentially an upgraded Predator B, the UAS was developed with GA-ASI funding and provides significantly greater capabilities over its predecessor. A variation of the MQ-1 Predator, the Reaper is designed for surveillance and attack missions and utilizes a variety of airborne sensors. General Atomics will perform the work on the Reaper in Poway, California, and is expected to be finished by September 2017.
Compared to the MQ-9 Reaper Block 1 models, the Reaper Block 5 represents a major evolutionary leap in overall performance and reliability. The new model has increased electrical power, secure communications, auto land, increased gross takeoff weight, weapons growth, and streamlined payload integration capabilities. There are three independent power sources to accommodate the dual ARC-210 VHF/UHF radios. Powered by Honeywell’s proven TPE331-10 turboprop engine, the Reaper armed drone can fly for over 27 hours between refueling, at speeds up to 240 knots, and at altitudes up to 50,000 feet. Engine performance and fuel efficiency has been significantly improved because of the Digital Electronic Engine Control device integrated on the TPE331-10. A MQ-9 Reaper can self-deploy or fly aboard C-130 utility aircraft.
The Reaper is highly modular and can be easily configured for a variety of mission objectives. There are electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensors, Lynx multi-mode radar, multi-mode maritime surveillance radar, electronic support measures (ESM), and laser designators. It can be flown remotely or autonomously. There is a MIL-STD-1760 stores management system, C-band line-of-sight data link control, Ku-band beyond line-of-sight and satellite communications data link control. In addition, there are seven external payload stations. This allows the Reaper to carry as many as four Hellfire missiles, two BGU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs, or two 500-pound GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. The medium-endurance UAS has a 3,850 pound payload capacity which includes 3,000 pounds of external store like the Hellfire missiles.
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