US Air Force’s Reaper just became a lot deadlier with added arsenal
The US Air Force’s MQ-9 Reapers are will have enhanced attacking capabilities by employing the first GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition. The news comes after the military announced that the Reaper will replace the iconic Predator drone.
The US Air Force announced that the MQ-9 Reapers will have enhanced attacking capabilities. The UAV just got an upgrade by being fitted with a guided bomb unite. Using the GBU-38, the Reaper has already successfully completed a training mission. While the Joint Direct Attack Munition has been around since the 90s, the munition has just recently been validated and now proven for real world engagements marking a significant step in the Reapers’ joint warfighter role, US Air Force officials said.
“We had a great opportunity to drop the first live GBU-38s in training,” said Capt. Scott, 26th Weapons Squadron weapons instructor pilot. “The GBU-38 is a weapon we’ve been trying to get on the MQ-9 for several years now and we had the opportunity to be the first to drop during training.”
Until now, the MQ-9 crew used AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 laser-guided bombs but the new addition will make Reapers even more effective in combat.
“There’s definitely times when I could’ve used the GBU-38 in combat prior to this,” Scott said.
The JDAM will add flexibility and efficiency to the targeting process. The new arsenal has also been praised for its versatility, is able to perform through poor weather conditions and it has a quicker load time.
“The GBU-38 has a 20 minute load time compared to the GBU-12, which has a 30 minute load time,” said Senior Airman Curtis, 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member. “The GBU-38 is a quicker load compared to the GBU-12 and gets the plane in the air quicker.”
The announcement about the added capabilities comes after in February, the US Air Forces will gradually retire their iconic Predator drones. Air Force officials said that the replacement will be complete by early 2018 and that the first Predators will stop flying as early as July 2017. The military argued that switching the Predator drones with the Reapers was a decision taken in order to maintain the technological advancement on the battlefield.
“When you ask about readiness, you have to ask ready for what?” said Air Force Col. Joseph, the 432nd Operations Group commander. “If we talk about the things we could be ready for and what we should be asking our attack squadrons to do, then transitioning to an all MQ-9 force is imperative for readiness, Joseph said about the subject.”
The fresh MQ-9 design picked up where the MQ-1 left off, boasting a nearly 4,000-pound payload and the ability to carry missiles and bombs.