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Air Platforms

USAF to convert Block 5 Reapers to ER configuration

16 March 2017

The US Air Force (USAF) intends to award General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) a contract to upgrade a number of its MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) to the extended range (ER) configuration, it disclosed on 15 March.

The US Air Force is to convert a number of its Block 5 Reaper unmanned aircraft into the ER configuration. (US Air Force)The US Air Force is to convert a number of its Block 5 Reaper unmanned aircraft into the ER configuration. (US Air Force)

A solicitation titled MQ-9 Block 5 Follow-On Reaper Capability Enhancement (FORCE), posted on the US government's Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) website, says that the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) Medium Altitude UAS Division intends to award a contract on a sole source basis to GA-ASI.

The USAF has already upgraded an unspecified number of its Block 1 MQ-9 Reapers to the ER configuration. No details pertaining to numbers of additional systems to be modified, contract values, or timelines were revealed in the synopsis.

The Reaper ER modification involves the fitting of new wings containing extra fuel tanks and winglets. Additional (non-drop) fuel tanks can also be fitted to the aircraft's underwing hardpoints for additional range. The baseline MQ-9 has an endurance of about 32 hours (clean), and while GA-ASI has not disclosed the endurance of the ER-upgraded vehicle, it is understood to be more than 40 hours.

As of September 2015 (the latest date given on its website), the USAF had 90 MQ-9s in its inventory though this number is now believed to be closer to about 105.

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