View Full Version : the Reaper carries four Hellfires and two 500-pound GBU-12 laser guided bombers.

08-04-2008, 12:10 AM
Air force looks to a new drone to keep peace in Iraq

The US Air Force may turn increasingly to a new armed drone, the MQ-9 Reaper, to help keep the peace in Iraq once the conflict shrinks in scale and US ground troops go home, a top US commander says.
Lieutenant General Gary North, the commander of US air forces in the Middle East, said he is examining options for when and where he can replace manned fighter and bomber aircraft with armed drones.

"Today we are in an environment where we may not need the large number or persistence of manned aircraft," he said in an interview by telephone Friday with AFP from a base in the region.

"We can put unmanned aircraft -- Predator, Reaper, and other assets -- overhead for long endurance periods. We call that persistent stare. "And with the Reaper, armed with Hellfire and 500-pound precision weapons, we'll be able to have a deadly stare if needed," he said.

The Reaper was deployed in Iraq for the first time July 17 from Balad Air Base, and has been flying in Afghanistan since September. "We have turned a corner in warfare by bringing in this new platform that complements -- and I stress complements -- our incredible manned capacity today," he said. "So my task is to figure out which asset you use, where and why to get the best effect in the battlespace," he said.

The Reaper can fly faster, higher, farther and carry more weapons than its predecessor, the MQ-1 Predator.

Unlike the Predator, which can carry two laser guided Hellfire missiles, the Reaper carries four Hellfires and two 500-pound GBU-12 laser guided bombers, North said. "It is very, very effective," he said.

The Reaper, which are flown by a two person crew thousands of miles away at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, reportedly can stay aloft up to 24 hours at a time, sending back surveillance and reconnaissance data.

By contrast, a fighter jet can stay overhead for three to six hours; a B-1 bomber 10 hours. Keeping the average 90 flights of fighters and bombers over Iraq on a given day means flying another 64 sorties by air refueling aircraft.