The U.S. Air Force Wants To Replace the Reaper
The U.S. Air Force wants to replace the service’s fleet of Reaper attack drones with something new capable of surviving in hostile airspace. Although highly successful at what it does, the MQ-9 Reaper is easily shot down and would not survive over a battlefield protected by modern air defenses.
The MQ-9 Reaper drone was first introduced in 2007. Bigger, faster, more heavily armed than the original Predator drone, the Reaper has excelled in flying missions over places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. In uncontested airspace the Reaper can linger for hours, waiting for the right moment to unleash a Hellfire missile or laser-guided bomb. The Reaper is the largest known armed drone in the Pentagon’s inventory. In addition to the Air Force, the CIA operates a small number of Reapers reportedly involved in using the “Flying Ginsu” Hellfire R9X missile.