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Americans armed the MQ-9A Reaper with a record number of missiles

WASHINGTON, (BM) – One of the most dangerous attacking combat drones in the world is the American drone MQ-9A Reaper, which was developed by the engineers of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

Read more: Top 5 best combat drones [UAVs] in the world

According to the latest information from American sources, the military recently decided to change the armament of the drone by testing not eight AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, learned BulgarianMilitary.com

It should be noted that the MQ-9A Reaper generally carries and is used with four missiles of this type. Apparently, the additional four missiles were an opportunity to study the characteristics and capabilities of the “reaper” at the already changed constants.

Fighter attack drones are still failing to reach the effectiveness of fighters and helicopters operated on the spot by real pilots, but gradually this line is beginning to fade sharply, and this is becoming increasingly clear to Americans. With four new missiles and a total of eight, the MQ-9A Reaper is getting closer to a standard conventional combat helicopter, which is a prerequisite for a future tactical change in combat behavior.

U.S. sources say the drone with the eight deadly missiles was successfully tested in September this year, and U.S. engineers have changed not only the way the four missiles are attached, but also the flight program software used by the non-upgraded standard “reaper”. The military commented that this was the beginning of a process of upgrading and upgrading existing drones, and that this process was just beginning, with additional weapons and software being only part of the plan.

What we know about the MQ-9A Reaper is that its first flight was back in 2001, or for almost two decades, this drone has been used as the US Army’s main attack drone. The speed that the drone develops and to which it can reach a maximum is 400 kilometers per hour, thanks to its turboprop engine. At full load of power and standard armament of 4 missiles, the drone stays in the air for a maximum of 14 hours. About 270 drones are currently operating in the United States and around the world.

Let us remind you that only a few days ago we announced other tests of the same drone model, namely the ability of the “reaper” to launch another, smaller drone, which allowed American engineers to “capture” other data, such as how a particular system responds to cargo, not missiles, in flight. The drone that was launched by the MQ-9A Reaper is called Sparrowhawk.

Read more: India intends to acquire American MQ-9 Reaper attack drones

The first flight tests of the MQ-9A drone with the Sparrowhawk drone suspended from it were recognized as successful: the device did not start during the flight, but General Atomics specialists checked the effect of the suspended drone on the aerodynamic characteristics and controllability of the attack carrier drone. Small spacecraft Sparrowhawk is equipped with a jet engine, it has a V-shaped tail unit, as well as a rotating wing.

When the drone is on the carrier, its wing is installed parallel to the fuselage, which allows to reduce aerodynamic drag in flight, as well as the effect of wing lift on the flight of the MQ-9A. After launch, the Sparrowhawk’s wing rotates 90 degrees, other details about the tests and the small drone as such are not disclosed. General Atomics recently conducted flight tests of the MQ-9 with an artificial intelligence system that can select targets automatically.

Each Reaper drone is currently operated by two people: one operator pilots the device, and the other works with its sensors and weapons. The task of detecting, recognizing and identifying targets lies with the weapons operator – this is a rather difficult and responsible job, besides, operators today have extremely long shifts due to the long duration of flights and a shortage of personnel, which has already exceeded 400 people in the US Air Force.

All this is a sign that the future drones will be the leading military weapons systems of the conflicts, which in one way or another will re-emerge in the world. “Changing the rules” for waging war are still being seen in several hotspots around the world, such as Nagorno-Karabakh or Syria. Different functionalities of the drones can be noticed in both places, as most of them are already smaller, fly in swarms and are a kind of “kamikaze drone” – it directly hits the target and is destroyed.

Russia, for example, has already begun installing a cluster device on its combat helicopters, which will launch kamikaze drones and keep helicopters out of dangerous proximity to the future target. Let us not forget that drones are already widely used not only in the air, but also at sea or on land.

US presented a successor to its popular MQ-9 Reaper reconnaissance UAVs

The General Atomics concern has presented on September 17 the project of the successor to its popular MQ-9 Reaper reconnaissance UAVs, which was created in response to the requirements of the US Air Force.

Read more: Belgium and UK will cooperate in the use of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian UAVs

Seeing the little usefulness of the Reaper outside of asymmetric conflicts, the American aviation wants to find a successor within a decade. The US company responded with a completely new jet wing design, which is to stay in the air “much longer than the current UAV”.

The MQ-9A Reaper drones have been in service with the US aviation and the armed forces of many other countries for two decades, but they have evolved from the MQ-1 Predator machines and repeat their layout: a classic airframe with a push propeller and a turboshaft engine.

Such machines have proven themselves in actions against various types of fighters and paramilitary groups, however, they are not very suitable for fighting an enemy with modern air defense systems.

Therefore, evolution goes in two directions. On the one hand, the MQ-1C Gray Eagle appeared, which works with the AH-64E Aapache helicopters, on the other hand, hard-to-detect drones for long-term flights at high altitude are sought.

The US Air Force decided to look for a modern reconnaissance and impact machine by writing an offer inquiry for the successor of the MQ-9A Reaper. The General Atomics proposal is to be a machine that can stay in the air for much longer than the 27 hours that the Reaper achieves, or even 72 hours, during which the Gray Eagle Extended Range can remain at the average altitude. At the same time, the machine is to be difficult to detect and have great autonomy, carrying out most of the tasks independently.

“Our emphasis on automation and autonomy capabilities comes from the understanding that the increased speed and intensity of future hostilities requires an equally flexible and intelligent set of systems – not only to enable minimized operations, but also to reduce the burden on the tactical data exchange network in disputed communication environments. Our next-generation drone will transform the battlefield of the future” said David Alexander, President of General Atomics.

The presented visualization shows another unmanned aerial vehicle in a flying wing system, with a jet engine inlet hidden on the upper surface and slotted engine outlets to lower the thermal signature. The armament will be hidden inside the fuselage, and the high aerodynamic excellence is to ensure spectacular flight durability.

Time will show how much the company will manage to achieve the announced results, based on the airframe design as well as on software and algorithms increasing its autonomy and giving the ability to solve problems without human involvement. For the US Air Force, which has been struggling with an insufficient number of unmanned aerial vehicles for years, this may even be a more important issue.

Read more: India begins joint development of UAVs with the US Air Force

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