USAF in search of a replacement for the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

The US Air Force has formally launched its search for an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) to replace the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper beginning in 2030. The service is conducting market research to find its next medium-altitude UAV for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), as well as air-to-ground strike missions, the Air Force Materiel Command says, in a 3 June request for information (RFI).

By Garrett Relm
SOURCE: FLIGHT GLOBAL

The MQ-9 was given initial operating capability in 2007 and has been used extensively against insurgents and terrorists in the Middle East. Its flight endurance of 27h allows the UAV to loiter above battlefields for long durations.

That has made it a favoured air-to-ground strike aircraft against combatants who often blend into the surrounding populace and must be picked off at fleeting moments, so as to avoid hurting or killing nearby civilians.

However, the UAV is vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles. As the USA pivots towards Great Power rivalries against China and Russia – countries with sophisticated and long reaching anti-aircraft missile batteries – the MQ-9’s potential is limited, according to the USAF.

The service wants a UAV that embodies what it gets from the MQ-9, but with capabilities to operate in a new era of more advanced threats. READ MORE HERE