MQ-9 Reaper Joins First Unmanned Attack Squadron

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The first MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft arrived at Creech Air Force Base, NV this week after completing flight tests in California. This is the first of 18 aircraft to be operated by the 42 attack squadron from this base. By May 1, the squadron should transition under the 432nd Wing, the first wing totally dedicated to Predator and Reaper operations. According to squadron commander Lt. Colonel Jon Greene, By 2009, the 42nd Attack Squadron should have 18 Reapers assigned for training and deployment purposes. The plan is for the Reapers to deploy by the beginning of summer, said. The squadron is tasked with the initial training and development of MQ-9 specific tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) to be used in the current fight as well as any potential future conflicts. The first deployment of the MQ-9 is expected in AFghanistan during the second half of 2007, subsequently it will be fielded in Iraq, probably with the Predators stationed at Balad airbase, by late 2007 or early 2008.

Seven MQ-9s are currently in production; In January 2006 General Atomics was awarded an initial contract for the production of five MQ-9 Reaper air vehicles, scheduled for delivery by March 2008, for the total amount of $41 million. By March 13 the company received additional $43 million for the delivery of two MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicles, two ground control stations plus mission equipment and support. These aircraft are scheduled for delivery by December 2008. All aircraft will employ the Multi-Spectral Targeting System (MTS-B) electro-optical payloads, developed by Raytheon. A production contract for five systems was awarded to Raytheon in February, as part of a $70 million MTS order for 65 systems, destined for the MQ-1 Predator (60 systems) and MQ-9 systems (5).