Air-Launched Weapons

USAF launches effort to equip Reaper UAS with air-to-air missile

08 March 2018
With the Reaper already having proven itself in the ISR and strike roles, the USAF has now begun the process of equipping the unmanned aircraft with an air-to-air capability for the first time. Source: IHS Markit/Patrick Allen

The US Air Force (USAF) is looking to equip its General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) with an air-to-air missile (AAM) capability for the first time.

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) Medium Altitude UAS Division disclosed on 7 March that it intended to award the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) a sole-source contract for the development of MQ-9 Reaper Air-to-Air Missile (RAAM) Aviation Simulation (AVSIM) as the first step in the process of fielding such a capability.

No details as to the type or capabilities of the proposed AAM were disclosed, neither were proposed development and fielding timelines or contract values.

The Reaper can currently carry up to 16 Lockheed Martin AGM-114P Hellfire missiles. It has also been cleared for the carriage of two GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs and the GBU-38 500 lb variant of the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), and for mixed loads of these weapons.

To date, the Reaper has been employed for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike missions only, and the inclusion of air-to-air combat in its mission set would represent a significant expansion of its capabilities.

While such an enhancement would be a first for the Reaper, the USAF has fitted short-range AAMs to UAVs previously.

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