Warplanes: Reaper At War


July 24, 2008: In the last ten months, U.S. MQ-9 Reaper (or "Predator B") UAVs operating in Afghanistan have flown 480 sorties, each averaging about eight hours. The Reaper has spent most of its time doing reconnaissance, but has also operated as it was designed, as a combat aircraft. While the Reaper can carry smart bombs (500 pound JDAMs), the most frequently used weapon continues to be the 107 pound Hellfire missile. Reaper is now showing up in Iraq as well.

Between 2007 and 2010 the U.S. Air Force plans to buy 170 MQ-1B Predators, and up to 70 MQ-9 Reapers. While the Predator was a reconnaissance aircraft that could carry weapons (two Hellfire missiles), the Reaper was designed as a combat aircraft that also does reconnaissance. The Reaper can carry over half a ton of GPS or laser guided bombs, as well as the 250 pound SDB, or Hellfire missiles. The Predators cost about $4.5 million each (with sensors, about half as much without), while the Reaper goes for about $8.5 million (with sensors). The Reaper can only stay in the air for up to 24 hours, versus 40 hours for the Predator. But experience has shown that few missions require even 24 hours endurance. For that reason, the air force decided not to give the Reaper an in-flight refueling capability. The Reaper also carries sensors equal to those found in targeting pods like the Sniper XL or Litening, and flies at the same 20,000 foot altitude of most fighters using those pods. This makes the Reaper immune to most ground fire, and capable of seeing, and attacking, anything down there. All at one tenth of the price of a manned fighter aircraft. The air force expects to stop buying the Predator in three years, and switch over to the Reaper, and new designs still in development.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contribute. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   contribute   Close