Long-Range Reaper Goes to War

The MQ-9 extended-range Reaper debuted in combat over Afghanistan, launching from Kandahar Airfield earlier this month, officials announced. Maintainers and General Atomics contractors retrofit roughly half of the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron’s MQ-9s at Kandahar a month after receiving the kits. “One of the things that at our level we are really proud of here is that we did it on top of completing our regular flying schedule,” the 62nd ERS maintenance operations officer said in a release. The Reaper-ER upgrade package includes an additional 1,350 pounds of fuel in two external tanks, a new four-bladed propeller, heavyweight undercarriage, and performance upgrades, according to the release. Depending on the configuration, upgraded aircraft can stay aloft up to 40 percent longer than the standard MQ-9. The Air Force ordered an initial 38 of the ER-variants under a quick-reaction requirement last year, and declared the RPA initially operational in September. The 62nd ERS flew the first Reaper-ER combat sortie on Dec. 1.