MQ-9 Reaper UAS: Aircraft profile

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The MQ-9 Reaper is a medium-to-high altitude, long endurance unmanned aircraft system.

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: CBP Air and Marine group conduct aerial operations with their UAS aircraft over areas affected by Hurricane Ike to help broadly assess damage so as to better deploy rescuers to specific areas with the most need.MQ-9 Reaper UAS: CBP Air and Marine group conduct aerial operations with their UAS aircraft over areas affected by Hurricane Ike to help broadly assess damage so as to better deploy rescuers to specific areas with the most need.

The MQ-9's primary mission is as a persistent hunter-killer against emerging targets to achieve joint force commander objectives. The MQ-9's alternate mission is to act as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset, employing sensors to provide real-time data to commanders and intelligence specialists at all levels.

Features

The typical system consists of several air vehicles, a ground control station, or GCS, communication equipment/links, spares and people who can be a mix of active-duty and contractor personnel. The crew for the MQ-9 is a pilot and a sensor operator, who operate the aircraft from a remotely located GCS. To meet combatant commanders' requirements, the MQ-9 delivers tailored capabilities using mission kits that may contain various weapons and sensor payload combinations.

The MQ-9 baseline system has a robust sensor suite for targeting. Imagery is provided by an infrared sensor, a color/monochrome daylight TV and an image-intensified TV. The video from each of the imaging sensors can be viewed as separate video streams or fused with the infrared sensor video. The laser rangefinder/designator provides the capability to precisely designate targets for laser-guided munitions. Synthetic aperture radar will enable Joint Direct Attack Munitions targeting. The aircraft is also equipped with a color nose camera, generally used by the pilot for flight control.

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: 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. (Courtesy photo)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: 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. (Courtesy photo)

Each MQ-9 aircraft can be disassembled into main components and loaded into a container for air deployment worldwide in Air Force airlift assets such as the C-130 Hercules. The MQ-9 air vehicle operates from standard U.S. airfields.

Background

The U.S. Air Force proposed the MQ-9 system in response to the Department of Defense request for Global War on Terrorism initiatives. It is larger and more powerful than the MQ-1 Predator and is designed to go after time-sensitive targets with persistence and precision, and destroy or disable those targets. The "M" is the Department of Defense designation for multi-role and "Q" means unmanned aircraft system. The "9" refers to the series of purpose-built remotely piloted aircraft systems.

In July 2004, the Air Combat Command Commander approved the MQ-9 Enabling Concept Document. The MQ-9 is operated by the 42nd Attack Squadron and based at Creech Air Force Base, Nev.

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: Capt Richard Koll, left, and Airman 1st Class Mike Eulo perform function checks after launching an MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle August 7 at Balad Air Base, Iraq. Captain Koll, the pilot, and Airman Eulo, the sensor operator, will handle the Predator in a radius of approximately 25 miles around the base before handing it off to personnel stationed in the United States to continue its mission. Both are assigned to the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.MQ-9 Reaper UAS: Capt Richard Koll, left, and Airman 1st Class Mike Eulo perform function checks after launching an MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle August 7 at Balad Air Base, Iraq. Captain Koll, the pilot, and Airman Eulo, the sensor operator, will handle the Predator in a radius of approximately 25 miles around the base before handing it off to personnel stationed in the United States to continue its mission. Both are assigned to the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

General Characteristics

Primary Function: Unmanned hunter/killer weapon system

Contractor: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

Power Plant: Honeywell TPE331-10GD turboprop engine
Thrust: 900 shaft horsepower maximum
Wingspan: 66 feet (20.1 meters)
Length: 36 feet (11 meters)
Height: 12.5 feet (3.8 meters)
Weight: 4,900 pounds (2,223 kilograms) empty
Maximum takeoff weight: 10,500 pounds (4,760 kilograms)
Fuel Capacity: 4,000 pounds (602 gallons)
Payload: 3,750 pounds (1,701 kilograms)
Speed: cruise speed around 230 miles per hour, (200 knots)
Range: 3,682 miles (3,200 nautical miles)
Ceiling: up to 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)

Armament: Combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.

Crew (remote): Two (pilot and sensor operator)

Unit Cost: $53.5 million (includes four aircraft with sensors) (fiscal 2006 dollars)
Initial operating capability: October 2007
Inventory: Active force, 10; ANG, 0; Reserve, 0

Source: USAF

Detailed background:

Source: wikipedia.org

The MQ-9 Reaper (originally the RQ-9 Predator B) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for use by the United States Air Force, the United States Navy, and the British Royal Air Force. The MQ-9 is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance.

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An aircrew member inspects the weapons loadout on an MQ-9 Reaper before it takes off on a mission in Afghanistan Oct. 1. (Courtesy photo)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An aircrew member inspects the weapons loadout on an MQ-9 Reaper before it takes off on a mission in Afghanistan Oct. 1. (Courtesy photo)

The MQ-9 is a larger and more capable aircraft than the earlier MQ-1 Predator. It can use MQ-1's ground systems. The MQ-9 has a 950-shaft-horsepower turboprop engine, far more powerful than the Predator's 119 hp (89 kW) 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.

Retired U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General T. Michael Moseley said, "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."

Design and development

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.

Prototype "Predator B"

General Atomics began development of the Reaper with the "Predator B-001", a proof-of-concept aircraft, which first flew on 2 February 2001. The B-001 was powered by a Garrett AiResearch 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 m) to 66 feet (20 m). 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.

GA refined the design, 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 U.S. 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.

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies over the crowd during the Aviation Nation Air Show at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 10. This year's show commemorated 60 years of airpower during the Air Force's year-long 60th anniversary celebration. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Robert W. Valenca)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies over the crowd during the Aviation Nation Air Show at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 10. This year's show commemorated 60 years of airpower during the Air Force's year-long 60th anniversary celebration. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Robert W. Valenca)

The second was the "Predator B-003", referred to by GA as the "Altair", which has a new airframe with an 84-feet (25.6 m) 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. 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.

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. The Reaper has an endurance of 14 hours when fully loaded with munitions. The MQ-9 currently carries a variety of weapons, including the GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb and the AGM-114 Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles. Tests are underway to allow for the addition of the AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles and GBU-38 JDAM bombs.

The Air Force believes that the Predator B will give the service an improved "deadly persistence" capability, with the UAV flying 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 drop larger quantities of ordnance on a target while a cheaper UAV can be kept in operation almost continuously, with ground controllers working in shifts, carrying a lighter ordnance load to destroy targets.

By October 2007, the U.S. Air Force owned nine Reapers, and was expected to decide whether to order full-rate production in 2009. The U.S. 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 two more MQ-9s and related systems in late 2006.

On 18 May 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a certificate of authorization that allows the MQ-1 and MQ-9 aircraft to fly in 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.

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial attack vehicle prepares to land in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan Nov. 27, 2007, following a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial attack vehicle prepares to land in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan Nov. 27, 2007, following a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

On 15 July 2007, the Associated Press reported that the MQ-9 would deploy into Iraq somewhere between the fall of that year or the spring of the next. Also mentioned was the building of a 400,000-square-foot (37,000 m2) expansion of the concrete ramp area used for Predator drones at Balad, the biggest U.S. air base in Iraq, presumably for the staging of Reapers.

On 28 October 2007 the Air Force Times reported an MQ-9 had achieved its first "kill", firing a Hellfire missile against "Afghanistan insurgents in the Deh Rawood region of the mountainous Oruzgan province. The strike was 'successful'," the United States Central Command Air Forces said.

Critics have stated that the USAF's insistence on qualified pilots flying UAVs is a bottleneck to expanding their deployment. Air Force Major General William Rew stated on August 5, 2008, "For the way we fly them right now"—fully integrated into air operations and often flying missions alongside manned aircraft—"we want pilots to fly them." Navy version

General Atomics designed a naval version of the Reaper, named the "Mariner", for the U.S. Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) program requirements. The design would have an increased fuel capacity in order to have an endurance of up to 49 hours. Proposed variations on the ultimate design included one designed for carrier operations 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). The concept was scrapped when the Navy Northrop Grumman RQ-4N was announced the BAMS winner.

NASA version

NASA had initially expressed some interest in a production version of the B-002 turbofan-powered variant, but instead has leased an unarmed version of the Reaper, which carries the GA-ASI company name "Altair". 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 (26 m) long wingspan (20 feet greater than early and current MQ-9's). The Altair has enhanced avionics systems to better enable it to to fly in FAA-controlled civil airspace and demonstrate "over-the-horizon" command and control capability from a ground station. These aircraft are used by NASA's Earth Science Enterprise as part of the NASA ERAST Program to perform on-location science missions.

In November 2006, NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center obtained an MQ-9 from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.. The aircraft has been named Ikhana and its main goal is the Suborbital Science Program within the Science Mission Directorate. NASA also acquired a ground control station in a mobile trailer. This aircraft was used extensively to survey the Southern California wildfires in 2007. The data was used to deploy firefighters to areas of the highest need.

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 (Record Identification: CHI06MA121) that the cause of the crash was most likely a pilot error by the aircraft's ground-based pilot in the use of a checklist. 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. 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 18 October 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.

The CBP-101 was equipped with the Lynx SAR, AX-15 payload, 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. International versions

Australia

In September 2006, the General Atomics Mariner demonstrator aircraft was operated by 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. United Kingdom

On 27 September 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. They will be operated by No. 39 Squadron RAF. A third MQ-9 is in the process of being purchased by the RAF.

On 9 November 2007, the UK Ministry of Defence announced that its MQ-9 Reapers had begun operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban. On January 4, 2008 it became public that the United Kingdom wants to purchase a further 10 MQ-9 Reapers, giving the Royal Air Force a total fleet of 13 Reaper UAVs.

On 22 April 2008, the Ministry of Defence announced that it was forced to destroy one of the Reapers operating in Afghanistan to prevent sensitive material falling into the hands of the Taliban after it crash landed. Germany

Germany has made a request to purchase five Reapers and four ground control stations, plus related support material and training. The request, being made through the Foreign Military Sales process, was presented to Congress through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency on August 1, 2008 and is valued at US$205 million. Italy

On August 1, 2008, Italy submitted a FMS request through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency for four aircraft, four ground stations and five years of maintenance support, all valued at US$330 million.

Operational history

* The California Office of Emergency Services requested NASA support for the Esperanza Fire, and in under 24 hours the General Atomics Altair (NASA variant of the Predator B) was launched on a 16 hour mission to map the perimeter of the fire. The Altair had just returned from a test mission a day before the Esperanza Fire started. The fire mapping research is a joint project with NASA and the US Forest Service.

* On 25 April 2006, an MQ-9 operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection crashed near Nogales, Arizona. The pilot, remotely operating the vehicle from Sierra Vista Municipal Airport, reported a momentary lockup of the displays on the primary control console. The pilot switched control to a secondary console, and in doing so inadvertently shut down the vehicle's engine, causing it to descend out of reach of communications and ultimately crash.

* On 1 May 2007, the 432d Wing of the United States Air Force was activated to operate MQ-9 Reaper as well as MQ-1 Predator UAVs at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The pilots are expected to fly combat mission in Iraq and Afghanistan in the summer of 2007.

* As of October 2007 the USAF is flying Operational missions in Afghanistan. As of March 6, 2008, according to USAF Lieutenant General Gary North, the Reaper has attacked 16 targets in Afghanistan using 500-lb bombs and Hellfire missiles. On 4 February 2008 the Reaper dropped a bomb on a truck carrying an insurgent mortar and team near Kandahar.

* On July 17, 2008, the Air Force began flying Reaper missions within Iraq, based out of Balad Air Base.

* On August 11, 2008, it has been reported that the 174th Fighter Wing of the USAF will consist of nothing but Reapers.

Armament

* 6 Hardpoints under the wings, can carry a payload mix of 1,500 lb (680 kg) on each of its two inboard weapons stations, 500–600 lb (230–270 kg) on the two middle stations and 150–200 lb (68–91 kg) on the outboard stations.

* Up to 14x AGM-114 Hellfire air to ground missiles can be carried or four Hellfire missiles and two 500 lb (230 kg) GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs. The ability to carry the JDAM in the future is also possible, as well is the AIM 9X, Air to Air missile.

More photos:

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies over the crowd during the Aviation Nation Air Show at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 10, 2007. Aviation Nation is the Air Force's premier air show and one of the largest in North America. This year's show commemorates 60 years of air power and is the capstone event of the Air Force's year-long 60th anniversary celebration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Robert W. Valenca)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies over the crowd during the Aviation Nation Air Show at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 10, 2007. Aviation Nation is the Air Force's premier air show and one of the largest in North America. This year's show commemorates 60 years of air power and is the capstone event of the Air Force's year-long 60th anniversary celebration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Robert W. Valenca)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: A fully armed MQ-9 Reaper aircraft taxis down a runway in Afghanistan Nov. 4, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: A fully armed MQ-9 Reaper aircraft taxis down a runway in Afghanistan Nov. 4, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: Alexander Holcomb and Darryl France, both General Atomic contractors, off-load an AGM-114 Hellfire missile from a fully armed MQ-9 Reaper aircraft upon its arrival at an air base in Afghanistan Nov. 4, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: Alexander Holcomb and Darryl France, both General Atomic contractors, off-load an AGM-114 Hellfire missile from a fully armed MQ-9 Reaper aircraft upon its arrival at an air base in Afghanistan Nov. 4, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An MQ-9 Reaper aircraft assigned to the 432nd Wing out of Creech Air Force Base, Nev., is shown during the Aviation Nation air show on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 11, 2007. Aviation Nation, which is the Air Force's premiere air show, is the capstone event of the Air Force's yearlong 60th anniversary celebration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kasabyan D. McGarvey)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An MQ-9 Reaper aircraft assigned to the 432nd Wing out of Creech Air Force Base, Nev., is shown during the Aviation Nation air show on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 11, 2007. Aviation Nation, which is the Air Force's premiere air show, is the capstone event of the Air Force's yearlong 60th anniversary celebration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kasabyan D. McGarvey)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: U.S. Air Force aircrews perform a preflight check on an MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle before it takes off for a mission in Afghanistan Sept. 30, 2007, during Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Released)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: U.S. Air Force aircrews perform a preflight check on an MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle before it takes off for a mission in Afghanistan Sept. 30, 2007, during Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Released)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle from the 42nd Attack Squadron taxis into Creech Air Force Base, Nev., March 13, 2007. This marks a historic day for the MQ-9 Reaper, as it was the first operational airframe of its kind to land at Creech. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Larry E. Reid Jr.)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle from the 42nd Attack Squadron taxis into Creech Air Force Base, Nev., March 13, 2007. This marks a historic day for the MQ-9 Reaper, as it was the first operational airframe of its kind to land at Creech. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Larry E. Reid Jr.)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: RQ-9 Predator B (now MQ-9 Reaper) in flightMQ-9 Reaper UAS: RQ-9 Predator B (now MQ-9 Reaper) in flight

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: CBP Air and Marine group conduct aerial operations with their UAS aircraft over areas affected by Hurricane Ike to help broadly assess damage so as to better deploy rescuers to specific areas with the most need.MQ-9 Reaper UAS: CBP Air and Marine group conduct aerial operations with their UAS aircraft over areas affected by Hurricane Ike to help broadly assess damage so as to better deploy rescuers to specific areas with the most need.

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: Capt Richard Koll, left, and Airman 1st Class Mike Eulo perform function checks after launching an MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle August 7 at Balad Air Base, Iraq. Captain Koll, the pilot, and Airman Eulo, the sensor operator, will handle the Predator in a radius of approximately 25 miles around the base before handing it off to personnel stationed in the United States to continue its mission. Both are assigned to the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.MQ-9 Reaper UAS: Capt Richard Koll, left, and Airman 1st Class Mike Eulo perform function checks after launching an MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle August 7 at Balad Air Base, Iraq. Captain Koll, the pilot, and Airman Eulo, the sensor operator, will handle the Predator in a radius of approximately 25 miles around the base before handing it off to personnel stationed in the United States to continue its mission. Both are assigned to the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

MQ-9 Reaper UAS flight: A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles.MQ-9 Reaper UAS flight: A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles.

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: The "Reaper" has been chosen as the name for the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle. (Courtesy photo)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: The "Reaper" has been chosen as the name for the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle. (Courtesy photo)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Angel Torres, a crew chief with 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, performs a pre-flight inspection on an MQ-9 Reaper aircraft as Jeremy Estoban, with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., looks on on Creech Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 28, 2008. Following the inspection the Reaper conducted its first ever blue-suit launch. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kenny Kennemer)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Angel Torres, a crew chief with 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, performs a pre-flight inspection on an MQ-9 Reaper aircraft as Jeremy Estoban, with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., looks on on Creech Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 28, 2008. Following the inspection the Reaper conducted its first ever blue-suit launch. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kenny Kennemer)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: The 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron spearheads the first ever blue-suit launch of the MQ-9 Reaper aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 28, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lawrence Crespo)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: The 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron spearheads the first ever blue-suit launch of the MQ-9 Reaper aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 28, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lawrence Crespo)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial attack vehicle prepares to land in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan Nov. 27, 2007, following a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial attack vehicle prepares to land in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan Nov. 27, 2007, following a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An aircrew member inspects the weapons loadout on an MQ-9 Reaper before it takes off on a mission in Afghanistan Oct. 1. (Courtesy photo)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An aircrew member inspects the weapons loadout on an MQ-9 Reaper before it takes off on a mission in Afghanistan Oct. 1. (Courtesy photo)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: 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. (Courtesy photo)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: 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. (Courtesy photo)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: 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. (Courtesy photo)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: 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. (Courtesy photo)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An MQ-9 Reaper takes off on a mission in Afghanistan Oct. 1. The Reaper has completed 12 missions since its inaugural flight there Sept. 25. (Courtesy photo)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An MQ-9 Reaper takes off on a mission in Afghanistan Oct. 1. The Reaper has completed 12 missions since its inaugural flight there Sept. 25. (Courtesy photo)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: The "Reaper" has been chosen as the name for the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle. (U.S. Air Force photo)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: The "Reaper" has been chosen as the name for the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle. (U.S. Air Force photo)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: The "Reaper" has been chosen as the name for the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle. (U.S. Air Force photo)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: The "Reaper" has been chosen as the name for the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle. (U.S. Air Force photo)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: A MQ-9 Reaper prepares to launch Feb. 28 from Creech Air Force Base, Nev.. The Reapers arrived at the base in March 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lawrence Crespo)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: A MQ-9 Reaper prepares to launch Feb. 28 from Creech Air Force Base, Nev.. The Reapers arrived at the base in March 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lawrence Crespo)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial attack vehicle descends into an air field in Afghanistan Nov. 17 after a mission. The Reaper is able to carry both precision-guided bombs and missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)MQ-9 Reaper UAS: An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial attack vehicle descends into an air field in Afghanistan Nov. 17 after a mission. The Reaper is able to carry both precision-guided bombs and missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

More photos: MQ-9 Reaper UAS photo gallery

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