The US Air Force has made the most optimal proposal to send their MQ-9 Reaper Drones to Ukraine since they’ve been trying to dispose of these for years. However, Pentagon is on the fence about sending this long-range weaponry to Ukraine.
The MQ-9 Reaper is a remotely piloted aircraft for long-range and high-altitude surveillance and precision strikes. The Reaper is the US Air Force’s latest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and has been in service since 2007. It’s capable of reaching speeds of up to 300 knots, which makes it one of the fastest UAVs on the market today. While the Reaper can be used for reconnaissance, its primary mission is combat operations such as searching out and attacking enemy targets with guided munitions or laser-guided bombs and missiles. The MQ-9 Reaper has a wingspan of 66 feet/ 20.1 meters, measures 36 feet/ 11 meters in length, and is powered by a Honeywell TPE331-10GD turboprop engine that allows it to reach altitudes up to 50,000 feet. It features a variety of advanced sensors, including electro-optical/ infrared cameras, radar systems, laser designators, thermal imaging cameras, satellite communications systems, synthetic aperture radars, electronic intelligence (ELINT) packages, etc., that allow it to detect targets from great distances and relay real-time data back to its operators. Additionally, the Reaper also carries two GBU-44 Viper Strike glide bombs for use against ground targets.
The MQ-9 Reaper can stay aloft for more than 27 hours at a time due to its extended fuel capacity allowing for extensive search operations without compromising the safety of those on board or on the ground below. The drone also carries four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, which can provide effective anti-armor defense capabilities if necessary. Furthermore, compared to older unmanned aerial systems such as the RQ-1 Predator or MQ1A Gray Eagle drones that lack armament capability, the MQ-9 Reaper provides much more powerful offensive capabilities such as air strikes against enemy forces. It can also conduct pinpoint accuracy while posing minimal risk to personnel onsite or nearby civilians who might otherwise be put at risk during traditional warfare engagements.
While some have voiced concerns over the potential misuse of this technology by militaries around the world, proponents argue that if employed responsibly, within the parameters set forth by international law, there should be no reason why these advanced combat drones should not be available to Ukraine. The country definitely requires robust defensive capabilities against aggressive neighboring forces like Russia, who seek territorial gains through force rather than diplomacy.
California Republican Ken Calvert confirmed that the Air Force has already signed off on sending the Reaper drones to Ukraine, but the “leadership” has not “bout into the idea.”
“We ought to be able to put in the MQ-9 Reaper and Gray Eagles that would help change the course of this war,” Calvert said in an interview. However, he also emphasized the importance of sending troops to train Ukrainians on how to use the Reapers and the Gray Eagles ahead of the White House’s decision since it could take 3-4 months to train new users.
Ultimately, it’s up to decision-makers within each nation’s military hierarchy and their respective governments to determine whether these tools will be used appropriately or abused in any way. But as far as providing necessary defense capabilities, there is no denying that MQ-9 Reapers could provide Ukraine with a much-needed edge in defending itself from hostile actions from Russia along its Eastern border region.
Overall, when compared with other UAVs on the market today – such as those produced by China or Iran – there is no doubt that when it comes to long-range surveillance and precision strike capability, few can match what the MQ–9 Reaper has to offer in terms of both performance levels and pricing. It would be an ideal choice for Ukraine if they were allowed access through official channels set up by either NATO or US foreign policy teams operating within Europe.
Of course, further research into both options on paper and the costs associated with each would need to take place before any decisions could be made. But ultimately, Ukraine could benefit immensely from having access to these advanced weaponry platforms and could be a critical weapon that could turn the tides of war again in their favor.