General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has been awarded a $206 million contract to retrofit 122 MQ-9 Block 5 aircraft, the US Department of Defence announced on 16 May. Work is expected to be complete by 20 June 2024.
General Atomics will retrofit the MQ-9 Block 5 Reaper drones with extended-range, beyond-line-of-sight, and Barrett asymmetrical digital datalink computer (BADDC) router modification kits. These upgrades will enable the upgraded Reaper Block 5 unmanned aircraft to carry external fuel pods to extend their mission range.
The turboprop-powered, multi-mission Reaper armed drone can fly for more than 27 hours between refueling at speeds to 240 knots at altitudes to 50,000 feet. The medium-endurance UAV can carry payloads up to 1,750 kg. Reaper is able to carry four Hellfire missiles, two GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs, or two GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs).