Reaper UAV Now Flying in Afghanistan
Reaper UAV Now Flying in
– October 11, 2007
– The Air Force announced Oct. 11 that the MQ-9 Reaper, the service's new
hunter-killer unmanned aerial vehicle, is now flying operational missions in
Afghanistan. The Reaper has completed 12 missions since its inaugural flight
there Sept. 25, averaging about one sortie per day.
An MQ-9 Reaper sits on a ramp in Afghanistan Oct. 1. The
Reaper is launched, recovered and maintained at deployed locations, while being
remotely operated by pilots and sensor operators at Creech Air Force Base, Nev.
Capable of striking enemy targets with on-board weapons, the
Reaper has conducted close-air support and intelligence, surveillance and
Aircrews perform a preflight check on an MQ-9 Reaper before it
takes off on a mission in Afghanistan Oct. 1. The Reaper is larger and more
heavily-armed than the MQ-1 Predator and attacks time-sensitive targets with
persistence and precision, to destroy or disable those targets.
Operational use of Reaper's advanced capabilities marks a
step forward in the evolution of unmanned aerial systems. Air Force quality
assurance evaluators gave a "thumbs up" to the aircraft's debut performance and
have been pleased with its operation ever since.
An MQ-9 Reaper takes off on a mission in Afghanistan Oct. 1.
The MQ-9 has nearly nine times the range, can fly twice as high and carries more
munitions than the MQ-1 Predator
"The Reaper is a significant evolution in capability for the
Air Force," said Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force chief of staff. "We've taken
these aircraft from performing mainly as intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance platforms to carrying out true hunter-killer missions."
The Reaper is larger and more heavily-armed than the MQ-1
Predator. In addition to its traditional ISR capabilities, it is designed to
attack time-sensitive targets with persistence and precision, and destroy or
disable those targets. To date, Reaper operators have not been called upon to
drop their weapons on enemy positions.
An MQ-9 Reaper goes through an engine check on a ramp
in Afghanistan Oct. 1
Like the Predator, the Reaper is launched, recovered and
maintained at deployed locations, while being remotely operated by pilots and
sensor operators at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. That is where the resemblance
ends. The MQ-9 has nearly nine times the range, can fly twice as high and
carries more munitions.
"It's a tremendous increase in our capability that will allow
us to keep UAVs over the airspace of Afghanistan and Iraq in the future for a
very long time," said Lt. Gen. Gary North, commander of U.S. Central Command Air
Forces, who said the Reaper was a perfect complement to the Air Force's existing
manned airborne platforms. "This is just another evolutionary step where
technology is helping commanders on the battlefield to integrate great effects
from the air into the ground commander's scheme of maneuver."
An aircrew member inspects the weapons loadout on an MQ-9
Reaper before it takes off on a mission in Afghanistan Oct. 1
General North added that he expects the Reaper to bring a
significant impact to military operations throughout the U.S. Central Command
area of responsibility.
"The enemy knows we track them and they know that if and when
they commit acts against their people and government, we will take action
against them," General North said. "The Reaper is an incredible weapon in our
Approved by Air Combat Command in 2004, the Air Force
currently has nine Reapers in its inventory.