[News Today] U.S UPGRADES TO REAPER FROM PREDATOR DRONES: TOP 5 FACTS
U.S UPGRADES TO REAPER FROM PREDATOR DRONES: TOP 5 FACTS
The U S Air Force is moving to retire the MQ-1 Predator drone in early 2018 with the newer MQ-9 Reaper drone to better address its combat needs.
While replacement of the MQ-1 with the MQ-9 has been mulled for some time now, Air Force officials announced at least one attack squadron will stop flying the MQ-1 as soon as July, with the goal of full service-wide transition by next year.
In this video Defense Updates analyzes the changing scenario that has resulted in the decision and the difference in capability of these two systems.
The MQ-9 is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance. In 2006, the then–Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force General T. Michael Moseley said: “We’ve moved from using drones primarily in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance roles before Operation Iraqi Freedom, to a true hunter-killer role with the Reaper.
The upgrade to MQ 9 indicates that the US is more and more inclined in using drones for combat role.
The “M” is the DOD designation for multi-role, and “Q” means remotely piloted aircraft system.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is the manufacturer of these drones.
Since its first operational deployment in the Balkan wars in the mid-1990s, the Predator has evolved from a pure surveillance drone to an armed flying weapon that has become a symbol of American military forces in large sections of the Middle East.
The Predator has proven to be a very effective combat UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), especially given that it was never designed to fire missiles. MQ 1 was designed to gather intelligence on the battlefield.
As the service began using them more often, they were equipped with Hellfire laser-guided Air-to-Ground Missile, though; this subsequently limited its payload to 450 pounds. A reduction of payload means that less sensors and reconnaissance equipment can be carried.
Another drawback is that it can fly at max altitude of 25,000 feet and has a maximum speed of 84 mph.
The Reaper has a number of advantages over its Predator counterpart, having been designed from the ground up to be an offensive drone.
The Reaper can fly up to 50,000 feet in altitude, has a cruise speed of 194 mph and can carry a payload of 800 pounds. Reaper also has a range of or 1,150 miles compared to 700 miles of Predator.
It’s a much more flexible drone for military planners, especially with the addition of the Multi-Spectral Targeting System.
The range of sensors it has is great for keeping track of targets on the ground. The full-motion video from the image sensors can be viewed as a stream. It can also fire 4 Hellfire missiles, twice the number of the MQ-1.
It must be noted that Hellfire missiles are very versatile, as these can have different types of warheads for different scenarios. Hellfire can have High-explosive anti-tank (HEAT), tandem anti-armor Metal augmented charge (MAC) or shaped charge blast fragmentation warhead.
It can also carry GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
The unit cost of the MQ1 is around $7 million, while the MQ-9 Reaper costs around $14.75 million.
The cost per hour of Predator flights stands at $3,679, compared to $4,762 for the Reaper.
The retirement of the Predator doesn’t mean they will be banished from the skies. Instead the manufacturer, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, has redeveloped the drone for civilian government use, renamed it the SkyGuardian, and is trying to sell it to police forces around the world.
The upgrade to MQ 9 comes at a time when drones are playing more of a role in close air support missions, than they did during the beginning days of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
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