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MQ-9 Reaper: What is it, who makes it, and why the Reaper matters more than ever

The MQ-9 Reaper (also known as Predator B) is a military drone capable of remote piloting and is heavily armed. The MQ-9 is capable of surveillance but in recent years has been modified increasingly to be a “hunter-killer” drone according to the US Airforce.

Why is it called the MQ-9 Reaper? What does it stand for?

“M” is the US DoD designation for “multi-role”,  “Q” designates a remotely piloted aircraft, and finally, the “9” is because it is the 9th in the series. The MQ-9 Reaper is the largest drone in the series and is designed to carry multiple weapon systems including Hellfire missiles, laser-guided bombs,  anti-air Sidewinder missiles, and other munitions.

Who makes the MQ-9 Reaper? What the MQ-9 Reaper significant? Why is this drone significant?

The MQ-9 Reaper is made by General Atomics based in San Diego. The MQ-9 Reaper is most significant as it is the original “hunter-killer” drone deployed by the US. The MQ-9 Reaper is deployed at 25,000 ft and can fly for 14 hours with a fully loaded munitions package. The MQ-9 Reaper has 7 hardpoints to mount weapons to, and it can carry up to 4 Hellfire missiles and two 500lb GBU-12 laser-guided bombs.

What is the MQ-9 Reaper? What does it do and, how does it compare to other advanced military drones?

The MQ-9 Reaper is the US Air forces primary hunter-killer drone with over 300 in operation for the Air Force. The MQ-9 Reaper is designed for extended deployments, targeted bombing, and attack campaigns that don’t require any personnel on the ground.

The Reaper can be operated remotely from Air force bases like Creech Air Force Base in Las Vegas Nevada. It takes less than 2 seconds for an operator command issued to reach a Reaper and the drone itself is equipped with sophisticated observation sensors which are fed back to the pilot.  The MQ-9 Reaper was first used in Afghanistan and Iraq while being operated from Las Vegas; it killed its first human being on March 6, 2008, in Afghanistan on General Gary North.

There are currently over 300 MQ-9 Reapers in the US Air Force and there are 13 countries that are known operators of the MQ-9 Reaper. Potential future operators include NATO countries that are allied with the US and have a need for drones. To this point countries including Germany have tended to avoid this technology but with tension in Europe increasing more hunter-killer type drones are expected to be deployed around the world.

What are the uses of the MQ-9 Reaper and where has it been used?

The MQ-9 Reaper was first used in Afghanistan & Iraq, it made its first official “kill” in Afghanistan in 2008. MQ-9 Reaper is in use globally where military operations are ongoing; while not designed to fly alongside civilian aircraft they are in use by over a dozen countries for observation and military uses.

How much do MQ-9 Reaper’s cost? How hard is it to operate the MQ-9 Reaper? What are the training requirements?

In its most recent purchase, Congress approved 17.875 M per MQ-9 drone, adding 16 new Reapers into service in 2021. MQ-9 Reapers can be outfitted with a huge range of weapons and other systems – so their estimated costs vary. Generally, MQ-9 drones operate in groups with a single trained USAF pilot and air force sensor specialist on the ground. In addition, these drones require air traffic control and support equipment on the ground.