General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA‑ASI) announced on September 15 that its Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper Extended Range (Reaper ER) remotely piloted aircraft fleet has achieved a historic milestone with the first operational fielding of Reaper ER by the US Air Force (USAF) during August. “Reaper ER provides a tremendous capability increase in both range and endurance, and achieving this major program milestone wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication and commitment of our employees,” said Frank W Pace, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. “We are pleased that the Reaper ER programme has met the expectations of our Air Force customer and satisfied the enormous challenge of their Quick Reaction Capability [QRC] schedule requirement.”
A Reaper can be transformed into a Reaper ER through the integration of a field-retrofittable modification package consisting of two wing-mounted fuel tanks which significantly extend the aircraft’s maximum endurance. Reaper’s original external payload carriage configuration remains unchanged, providing the aircraft with a mix and match’ capability that allows it to carry both fuel tanks and an assortment of external payloads. To increase thrust and improve take-off performance at higher gross weights, an alcohol/water injection system and a four-bladed propeller have also been incorporated, along with a heavyweight trailing arm undercarriage system, which enables safe ground operations at the heavier gross weight.
The Reaper ER programme was a QRC requirement designed to meet a request from the USAF, which challenged GA-ASI to deliver 38 Reaper ER aircraft in 13 months and to have them operational 18 months after contract award. The ER modification package was designed to be field-retrofittable so that fuel tanks and associated equipment could be installed quickly and conveniently on current Reapers at worldwide locations. Alan Warnes