RAF Aircraft - Predator MQ-9 Reaper - RPAS - Remotely Piloted Air System



Predator MQ-9 Reaper in-flight

Reaper is a Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) with a primary ISTAR (Intelligence The Reaper's primary mission is to act as an (intelligence, surveillance, target, acquisition and reconnaissance) platform. During Operation Herrick in Afghanistan Reaper has been used to provide close air support on opportunity targets to troops operating in the forward part of the battlespace. We believe that Reaper (RPAS) currently in RAF service employ two types of munitions; the Hellfire AGM 114 guided missile and the GBU 12 laser guided bomb.

During April 2013 the RAF began operating Reaper RPAS from RAF Waddington in addition to those operated from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada by 39 Squadron. ‘Operational since October 2012 at RAF Waddington, 13 Squadron has about 100 personnel including pilots, engineers and systems operators. Personnel from 39 Squadron will return to the UK (RAF Waddington) in 2013.

The UK MoD states that “Reaper is not an autonomous system and all weapons employment depends upon commands from the flight crew. The weapons may be released under the command of a pilot who uses Rules of Engagement that are no different to those used for manned UK combat aircraft. The targets are always positively identified as legitimate military objectives, and attacks are prosecuted in strict accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict and UK Rules of Engagement. Every effort is made to ensure the risk of collateral damage, including civilian casualties, is minimised.” By the end of January 2013 approximately 365 weapons were launched by UK Reapers.

US sources suggest that the ‘flyaway cost’ of an MQ-9 Reaper is in the region of US$16.9 million (£11.2 million).


PREDATOR MQ-9 REAPER Specifications

Crew Operated by 1 pilot and 1 sensor operator



Wingspan 20m

Weight (Empty)


Weight (Max) 4,760kg
Operational Altitude 25,000ft
Endurance 16-28hrs
Range 3,682miles
Payload 4,200lb
Max Speed 400kph/250mph
Cruise Speed 160kph/100mph
Engine 670kW Honeywell TP331-10 turboprop

6 x hardpoints under wings, can carry a payload mix of 1,500lb (680kg) on each of its two inboard weapons stations, 500-600lb (230-270kg) on the two middle stations and 150-220lb (68-91kg) on the outboard stations. Up to 14 x AGM-114 Hellfire air to ground missiles can be carried or 4 x Hellfire missiles and 2 x 500lb (230kg) GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs. The ability to carry the JDAM in the future is also possible, as well as the AIM 9X air-to-air missile.

In service with:

13 Sqn Predator MQ-9 Reaper RAF Waddington
39 Squadron Predator MQ-9 Reaper RAF Waddington

Photo Courtesy of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.