The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has disclosed that two of its 10 General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc MQ-9 Reaper medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been involved in serious accidents since the beginning of 2015, with one aircraft being decommissioned and the other being placed in long-term repair as a result.
Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) made the disclosure in a freedom of information (FOI) request that was submitted by Drone Wars UK, and was supplied to Jane's on 24 October.
According to the FOI response, Reaper ZZ201 suffered a collapse of its port main-landing gear during a landing on 17 October 2015. That aircraft was withdrawn from service as it was nearing the end of its viable flying life, DE&S said. Jane's reported this decommissioning earlier this year following another FOI request submitted by Drone Wars UK, but the response to that request from the MoD made no mention of an accident.
Separately, on 16 August 2016, Reaper ZZ205 suffered a runway excursion. "The air vehicle is under repair at Poway [in California] and will be returned to the fleet", DE&S said.
With nine Reapers currently in its inventory and eight in service, all the vehicles themselves are currently based in the Middle East (understood, but not confirmed, to be Kuwait) for operations over Syria.
The UK is due to replace its Reapers with up to 26 MQ-9B Protector RG1 MALE UAVs. The Protector programme is running some years behind schedule, and the original plan was that the transition would take place seamlessly with no loss of capability. The first of an initial 16 Protectors is set to enter service in the mid-2020s.
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