Some background on the MQ-9 Reaper, an upgrade to the MQ-1 Predator. Also, France has armed the Reapers it has deployed in Africa.
9/20/17 – Strategy Page – Counter-Terrorism: Up Close and Constantly – France has 6 U.S. made MQ-9 Reapers in its inventory. Five of them are Niger, used for counterterrorism operations in surrounding countries. The remaining one is in France, used for training. Six more are on order.
To improve capabilities, France started loading the MQ-9s with Hellfire missiles. Their Tiger helicopter gunships already use that missile, so they were in stock and the French munitions maintainers already knew how to load and handle them.
The Tigers can carry 8 Hellfires, but only have a 40% availability, and can only be airborne 2 or 3 hours. The Reaper can only carry up to 4, but has a higher availability record (80%) and has longer loiter time (10 or 15 hours). That all according to the article.
I described the armament on a Reaper here, including a description of a Hellfire.
Here’s a few stats on the MQ-9 Reaper, from a USAF fact sheet:
Two paragraphs describing features, quoting:
The MQ-9 baseline system carries the Multi-Spectral Targeting System, which has a robust suite of visual sensors for targeting. The MTS-B integrates an infrared sensor, color/monochrome daylight TV camera, image-intensified TV camera, laser range finder /designator, and laser illuminator. The full-motion video from each of the imaging sensors can be viewed as separate video streams or fused.
The unit also incorporates a laser range finder/designator, which precisely designates targets for employment of laser-guided munitions, such as the Guided Bomb Unit-12 Paveway II. The Reaper is also equipped with a synthetic aperture radar to enable future GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions targeting. The MQ-9 can also employ four laser-guided , Air-to-Ground Missile (AGM)-114 Hellfire missiles, which provide highly accurate, low-collateral damage, anti-armor and anti-personnel engagement capabilities.
- Dimensions: 66 feet wingspan, 36 feet length, 12.5 feet height
- Weight: 4,990 pounds
- Fuel: 4,000 pounds (602 gallons)
- Payload: 3,750 pounds
- Cruise speed: 230 mpg
- Range: 1,150 miles
- Unit cost: “$64.2 million (includes four aircraft, sensors, GCSs, and Comm.) (fiscal 2006 dollars)” – if I’m reading that right, 4 aircraft plus associated comm equipment is $64M, which means one plane is possibly in the range of $11M to $14M each.
- Total inventory: 93