by CHRIS POCOCK
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has revealed two options to extend the endurance of the MQ-9 Reaper UAV, also known as the Predator B. Wing-mounted fuel tanks and a 22-foot wing extension could be installed in the field in the “near term,” according to the company. They would complement the modified main landing gear, announced previously, that increases the Reaper’s max takeoff weight to 11,700 pounds from 10,500 pounds.
According to various reports, including one by the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), the Reaper’s claimed endurance of 24 to 30 hours is reduced to 14 hours when the aircraft is carrying weapons (typically two 500-pound GBU-12 laser-guided bombs). GA-ASI said that its latest proposals would extend the UAV’s endurance to between 37 and 42 hours in an unarmed ISR-only mission.