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The Reaper is an aircraft about the size of a jet fighter, powered by a turboprop engine and capable of flying at 300 mph and reaching over 50,000 feet. Packed with over a ton and a half of missiles and guided bombs, infrared, laser and radar targeting the Reaper is loaded but no one is inside. The pilot sits at a video console at the Creech AFB in Nevada.

The Reaper is a US "hunter-killer" drone and will be deployed in Iraq to hunt and kill. The first combat tests will be in Afghanistan but is expected to arrive in Iraq by fall of 2008. The idea is to send manned airplanes back home and save lives and resources according to Lt. Gen. Gary North of the US Air Force.

The US Air Force is adding a 400,000-square-foot extension of the concrete ramp area now used for Predator drones at Balad Air Force Base in Iraq 50 miles north of Baghdad. The staging area will probably be completely turned over to Reapers.

The Air Force looks to be planning an extended stay in Iraq, supporting Iraqi government forces in any continuing conflict, even if ground troops are drawn in the future.

The estimated two dozen or more unmanned MQ-1 Predators currently surveying Iraq have become the core of the US war effort, offering full time airborne "eyes."

At 5 tons gross weight, the Reaper is about four times heavier than the current Predator and its incredible size (36 feet long and 66-foot wingspan) make it comparable to the profile of the Air Force's workhorse A-10 attack plane. It can fly twice the speed and altitude of the Predator.



Source by Ada Smith


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Filed under: Drone Articles

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