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MQ-9 Reaper

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General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper
General characteristics
Length 11 meters 36 feet
Wingspan 20 meters 66 feet
Loaded weight 4,500 kilograms 10,000 pounds
Cruising speed 400 km/h 250 mph / 220 kt
Service ceiling 15,000 meters 50,000 feet
Endurance 14 hours
Unmanned aerial vehicle

The MQ-9 Reaper (originally the RQ-1 Predator B) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for use by the United States Air Force and the U.S. Navy. The MQ-9 is the Air Force's first purpose-designed hunter-killer UAV designed for long endurance high altitude surveillance.[1]

The MQ-9 system utilizes a larger and more capable aircraft than the earlier MQ-1 Predator, however, the MQ-9 can use MQ-1's ground systems, making MQ-1 "upgradable" to the MQ-9. The MQ-9 design utilizes a 950 shaft-horsepower turboprop engine in place of Predator's 119 hp piston engine. The increase in power allows the Reaper to carry 15 times more ordnance and cruise at three times the speed of the MQ-1.[1]

The U.S. Navy is referring to its MQ-9s as "Mariners".


With the success of the MQ-1 in combat, General Atomics anticipated the Air Force's desire for an upgraded aircraft, and using its own funds, set about redesigning Predator. Later, General T. Michael Moseley stated of the result, "We've moved from using UAVs primarily in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance roles before Operation Iraqi Freedom, to a true hunter-killer role with the Reaper."[1]

Prototype "Predator B"

General Atomics began development of the Predator B with the "Predator B-001", a proof-of concept aircraft, which performed its initial flight on February 2 2001. The B-001 was powered by a Honeywell / AlliedSignal TPE-331-10T turboprop engine with 950 shp (712 kW). It had a standard Predator airframe, except that the wings were stretched from 48 feet (14.6 meters) to 66 feet (20 meters). The B-001 had a speed of 220 kts (390 km/h) and could carry a payload of 750 pounds (340 kilograms) to an altitude of 50,000 feet (15.2 kilometers) with an endurance of 30 hours.[2]

GA further refined the design, simultaneously taking it in two separate directions. The first was with a jet-powered version. The "Predator B-002" was fitted with a Williams FJ44-2A turbofan engine with 10.2 kN (2,300 lbf / 1,040 kgf) thrust. It had payload capacity of 475 pounds (215 kilograms), a ceiling of 60,000 feet (18.3 kilometers) and endurance of 12 hours. The US Air Force has reportedly ordered two airframes for evaluation (delivery scheduled for 2007), and in at least one source this version is referred to as the RQ-1 Predator C[3]

The second was the "Predator B-003", called by GA the "Altair". which has a new airframe with a 84 feet (25.6 meters) wingspan and a takeoff weight of about 7,000 pounds (3,175 kilograms). Like the Predator B-001, it is powered by a TP-331-10T turboprop. This variant has a payload capacity of 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms), a maximum ceiling of 52,000 feet (15.8 kilometers), and an endurance of 36 hours.[4][5]

Air Force version

In October 2001, the US Air Force signed a contract with GA to purchase an initial pair of Predator B-003s for evaluation, with follow-up orders for production machines. The first test MQ-9s were delivered to the Air Force in 2002. The name "Altair" did not follow the aircraft into testing, with the Air Force continuing to refer to the system as "Predator B" until it was renamed Reaper ("Altair" instead became the designation for the unarmed NASA version); this is confusing, however, as the manufacturer uses the term to refer to the smaller B-001 prototype.[2]

The MQ-9 is fitted with six stores pylons. The inner stores pylons can carry a maximum of 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms) each, and are "wet" to allow carriage of external fuel tanks. The midwing stores pylons can carry a maximum of 600 pounds (270 kilograms) each, while the outer stores pylons can carry a maximum of 200 pounds (90 kilograms) each. An MQ-9 with two 1,000 pound (450 kilogram) external fuel tanks and a thousand pounds of munitions has an endurance of 42 hours.[5] Fully loaded with munitions, the Reaper has an endurance of 14 hours.[1] The MQ-9 can carry a variety of weapons, such as AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles, AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, and GBU-38 JDAM bombs.

The Air Force believes that the Predator B will give the service an enhanced "deadly persistence" capability, with the UAV hanging over a combat area night and day, waiting for a target to present itself. In this role, an armed UAV neatly complements piloted strike aircraft. A piloted strike aircraft can be used to dump larger quantities of ordnance on a known target, while a cheaper UAV can be kept in operation almost continuously, with ground controllers trading off in shifts, carrying a light warload to engage targets of opportunity.[5]

By late 2006, there were seven aircraft in the inventory. The Air Force is expected to make a decision whether to order full-rate production in 2009.[1] The US Navy ordered its first MQ-9s in December 2005. In September 2005, the United States Department of Homeland Security ordered one for border protection operations, ordered a second aircraft in early 2006, and ordered 2 more MQ-9's and related systems in late 2006.

On May 18, 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a certificate of authorization which will allow the MQ-1 and MQ-9 aircraft to be used within U.S. civilian airspace to search for survivors of disasters. Requests had been made in 2005 for the aircraft to be used in search and rescue operations following Hurricane Katrina, but because there was no FAA authorization in place at the time, the assets were not used.[6]

Navy version

General Atomics has designed a navalized version of the Reaper, named the "Mariner", for carrier operations. The production Mariner would be turboprop-powered, with folding wings for carrier storage, shorter and more rugged landing gear, an arresting hook, cut-down or eliminated ventral flight surfaces and six stores pylons with a total load of 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms).[5] The design would also have an increased fuel capacity in order to have an endurance of up to 49 hours.[7] The Mariner is intended to meet the Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) program requirements.

NASA version

NASA had initially expressed some interest in a production version of the B-002 turbofan-powered variant,[5] but instead has leased an unarmed version of the Reaper, which carries the GA-ASI company name "Altair."[8] Altair is one of the first 3 "Predator-B" airframes. The other 2 airframes, known as "Predator-B 001" and "Predator-B 002," had a maximum gross weight of 7,500 pounds. Altair differs from these models in that it has an 86-foot long wingspan (20 feet greater than early and current MQ-9's). Additionally, NASA purchased an MQ-9 in 2006 which NASA will refer to as "Ikhana" when final delivery is completed.

Homeland Security version

The United States Department of Homeland Security initially ordered one Predator B for border patrol duty, referred to as MQ-9 CBP-101. It began operations October 4, 2005, but on April 25, 2006, this aircraft crashed in the Arizona desert. The NTSB determined that the cause of the crash was most likely an error by the aircraft's ground pilot. During its operational period, the aircraft flew 959 hours on patrol and had a part in 2,309 arrests. It also contributed to the seizure of four vehicles and 8,267 pounds of marijuana.[9] Because of these successes, a second Predator B, called "CBP-104" (initially referred to as "CBP-102"), was delivered in September 2006, and commenced limited border protection operations on October 18, 2006.

The President’s FY 2006 Emergency Supplemental budget request added $45 million for the Predator B program, and the FY 2007 Homeland Security Appropriations bill adds an additional $20 million. In October, 2006, GA-ASI announced a $33.9 million contract to supply two more Predator B systems by Fall, 2007. The Department intends to eventually have four aircraft operational.[10]

The CBP-101 was equipped with the Lynx SAR, MX-15 EO/IR sensors, ARC-210 radios, and other sensors and communications equipment; CBP-104 was enhanced with Ku band satellite command and control link and MTS-A EO/IR sensors.[9]

International versions


In September, 2006, the General Atomics Mariner demonstrator aircraft was operated the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) in an exercise designed to evaluate the aircraft's ability to aid in efforts to stem illegal fishing, drug running and illegal immigration. The Mariner operated from RAAF bases Edinburgh, South Australia and Learmonth, Western Australia in conjunction with a Royal Australian Navy Armidale class patrol boat, the Joint Offshore Protection Command and the Pilbara Regiment.[11]

United Kingdom

On September 27, 2006, the U.S. Congress was notified by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency that the United Kingdom was seeking to purchase a pair of MQ-9 Reapers.[12]


Several minor variations of the RQ-9/MQ-9 exist; these values are indicative.


  • Contractor: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Incorporated
  • Landing Type: runway
  • Launch Type: runway
  • Power Plant: Honeywell TP331-10 turboprop engine, 670 kW


  • Ceiling: 50,000 ft (15 km)
  • Endurance: 14 h
  • Fuel Capacity: 1,300 kg (3,000 lb)
  • Length: 11 m (36 ft)
  • Payload: 1700 kg (3800 lb)
  • Weight: 1400 kg (3000 lb) empty; 4500 kg (10,000 lb) max
  • Wingspan: 20 m (66 ft)
  • Velocity: 400 km/h (250 mph, 220 knots)



  • Unit cost: USD 8 million (approximate, varies by configuration)


  • This article contains material that originally came from the web article Unmanned Aerial Vehicles by Greg Goebel, which exists in the Public Domain.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 'Reaper' moniker given to MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle
  2. 2.0 2.1 General Atomics official Predator B website
  3. Air Force article Predator RQ-1 / MQ-1 / MQ-9 Reaper - Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), USA
  4. Note: endurance figures vary greatly from source to source. The current figure being publicized by the Air Force is 14 hours.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 History of UAVs
  6. SSgt Amy Robinson, "FAA Authorizes Predators to seek survivors," Air Combat Command Public Affairs, August 11, 2006
  7. General Atomics official Mariner web page
  8. The Altair aircraft is one of the three "lightweight" (approx. 7,500 lbs. maximum gross weight) prototypes of the "Predator-B" line, with an 86-foot wingspan (20 feet longer than other Predator-B series aircraft). In 2006, GA-ASI completed production of an MQ-9 aircraft for sale and transfer to NASA, in addition to continuing to lease Altair to NASA. General Atomics official Altair web site
  9. 9.0 9.1 Office of Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine, UAS Presentation (PDF). Retrieved on 2006-10-31.
  10. Alice Lipowicz (2006-10-17). "Predator to be on the prowl again". Government Computer News. Retrieved on 2006-10-31.
  11. Defense Update article Australia Tests Maritime Surveillance UAV
  12. Defense Update article MQ-9 Reaper

External links

Related content

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Designation sequence
Template:Q-UAVs Related lists

See also

fr:MQ-9 Reaper