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Air Force expands mission for the Reaper attack drones, adds new weapons

File photo – Airman 1st Class Andrew Frano, a MQ-9 Crew Chief at Holloman Air Force Base, N. M., Dec. 19, 2016. (U. S. Air Force photo by J. M. Eddins Jr)

The air force is promoting the plans to retire the Predator drone by the transition pilots to the larger Reaper drone – and a broadening of the mission of the outreach of the Reapers for the integration of weapons, attack options, and ISR capabilities.

The pension and the transition from Predator to Reaper will be complete by the end of this year, the air force, the officials said.

“The MQ-1 Predator, paved the way to 24 years of service and the adjustment leads to expanded capabilities of the MQ-9 Reaper. The mission of set does not change. The ability to fulfil multi-role missions are extended by the MQ-9 Reaper,” Maj. Ken Scholz, an Air Force Spokesman told the Warrior Maven.

The air force is adding new weapons to the Reaper, through the use of an emerging “universal weapons interface.” This would be the Reaper for faster incorporation of new weapons technology as it comes and efficiently swap or replace the bombs on the drone without much effort, Air Force weapons developers explain.

This is something brought to fruition through common standards and the IP protocol is designed with customizable software and hardware configurations. This allows for a faster integration and a more seamless addition of new weapons on the Reaper platform.

The Reaper is currently the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, a 500-pound laser-guided weapon called the GBU-12 Paveway II and Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, which free-fall bombs was developed with a GPS and inertial navigation systems guidance kit.

There are many benefits to add to the arsenal of weapons can fire the Mower. These include an ability to strike smaller targets, mobile targets or terrorists, such as groups of enemy fighters on the move in pick-up trucks as well as the enemies at further ranges, among other things.

Drone attacks further can achieve a reduction of the risk on the platform and help strikes against Al-Qaeda or ISIS goals to better achieve an element of surprise. In addition, an ability to hit smaller and mobile targets, the Reaper drone have more success with attacks against groups of ISIS or other enemy combatants that the risk of pain in the vicinity of civilians. Both the ISIS and Al-Qaeda are known to deliberately try to blend in with the civilian population to better protect against U.S. drone attacks.

Further armament of the Reaper is also very relevant to the air force in a big-power air war; a possibility to conduct ISR missions, to test enemy air defences and the supply of weapons to a larger standoff ranges would undoubtedly important in some sort of large air warfare.

Also, at any time in the future may not be outside the realm of possibility to the arm of the Mower for air-to-air combat, service, developers have said.

In addition, the rapid pace of technical progress when it comes to autonomy and advanced algorithms is to quickly bring the air force a capability for more airborne manned-unmanned collaboration. F-22’s or F-35s, for example, will soon be able to control drones from the cockpit, the leadership of the strike and reconnaissance missions.

A new possibility for the Reaper drone would be the addition of the GBU-39B, or Small Diameter Bomb, a senior Air Force weapons developers told the Warrior in a previous interview.

The Small Diameter of the Bomb makes use of a smart weapons carrier capable of four 250-pound bombs with a range of 40 nautical miles. The bomb small reduces collateral damage and allows the Mower to achieve more kills or attack strokes per mission, Air Force officials said.

The Small Diameter of the Bomb, which can strike one or more goals, makes use of GPS precision. At the moment it is fired from the F-15, F-16, F-117, B-1, B-2, F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials stated.

The air force currently has more than 100 Reaper drones, and has in recent years started with the configuring of the platform with additional fuel tanks to increase. The Reaper Extended Range, or THERE-as it is called, is designed to substantially increase and build on the current 4,000-pound fuel capacity of the drone with a range of 1150 km.

The upgrades of Reaper are designed to add two of 1350 kg of fuel tanks designed for the increase of the drone’s endurance from 16 hours to more than 22 hours, service officials said.

This process for the Reaper evolves alongside a separate effort to equip ever smaller, lighter weight sensors, transmitters and receivers.

In addition, as technology continues to improve and lead to the miniaturization of sensors, receivers, and transmitter and lighter materials, smaller drones are increasingly expected to carry out larger missions currently reserved for major drone platforms.

However, this developmental phenomenon is not likely to lead to a replacement for the larger, armed Reaper at the moment – given its importance to save and reconnaissance missions.

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