MQ-9 ReaperMission

The MQ-9 Reaper is a medium-to-high altitude, long endurance remotely piloted aircraft system. The MQ-9’s primary mission is as a persistent hunter-killer against emerging targets in support of joint force commander objectives. The MQ-9’s secondary 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.


The typical system consists of several air vehicles, a ground control station, communication equipment/links, spares and personnel 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 IR 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.

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. The MQ-9 air vehicle operates from standard U.S. airfields.


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 June 2003, the Air Combat Command Commander approved the MQ-9 Concept of Operations. The MQ-9 is based at Creech Air Force Base, Nev.

General Characteristics

Primary Function: Unmanned hunter/killer weapon system
Contractor: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
Power Plant: Allied Signal TPE331-10GD turboprop engine, producing 900 shaft horsepower
Length: 36 feet (11 meters)
Height: 12.5 feet (3.8 meters)
Weight: 3,700 pounds (1,676 kilograms) empty
Maximum takeoff weight: 10,500 pounds (4,760 kilograms)
Wingspan: 66 feet (20.1 meters)
Combat Radius: 1,655 nautical miles (1,878 miles)
Ceiling: up to 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
Fuel Capacity: 4,000 pounds (602 gallons)
Payload: 3,750 pounds (1,701 kilograms)
Armament: Combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
Crew (remote): Two (pilot and sensor operator)
System Cost: $69.1 million (includes four aircraft with sensors) (fiscal 2006 dollars)
Inventory: Active force, 9; ANG, 0; Reserve, 0

Point of Contact

Air Combat Command, Public Affairs Office, 115 Thompson St, Suite 211; Langley AFB VA 23665-1987 or 757-764-5014.

U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet, January 2007