Building a Formidable Reaper Force

The Air Force currently has 44 MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft in its inventory and has received funding through Fiscal 2010 to procure an additional 57 production-version MQ-9s, service spokesman Maj. Richard Johnson tells the Daily Report. As part of its Fiscal 2011 budget request to Congress, the Air Force has plans to procure an additional 240 MQ-9s through Fiscal 2015, which would bring the fleet size to 341, he says. This would enable the service to provide 65 MQ-9 combat air patrols, according to Johnson. He notes that follow-on MQ-9 purchases are subject to each fiscal year’s budget approval. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems builds the Reaper. These armed intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance assets have been serving in combat since September 2007 in Afghanistan and supporting operations in Iraq since July 2008. Johnson says MQ-9s are “significantly more capable” than the MQ-1 Predator RPA that they are supplanting.