A Russian Su-27 fighter jet hit the propeller of a US military “Reaper” surveillance drone on Tuesday, causing it to crash into the Black Sea in an incident the US military condemned as “reckless”.
The following is a description of the MQ-9 “Reaper” drone based on information provided by the Air Force and its maker, General Atomics.
What it does and who owns it:
The unmanned aerial vehicle MQ-9 “Reaper” can hover at an altitude of 15,000 feet for more than 27 hours, collecting information with advanced cameras, sensors and radars. It has a wingspan of 20 meters, a Honeywell engine, can carry 3,900 pounds of fuel and travels at 240 knots of ‘true airspeed’.
Delivered to the Air Force 16 years ago, the Reaper can also be equipped with weapons such as air-to-surface missiles.
MQ-9s have also been purchased by the United States Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the British Royal Air Force, the Italian Air Force, the French Air Force, and the Spanish Air Force.
What are the advantages of drones?
Drones are generally less expensive than manned aircraft of similar capabilities, and are safer for operators because they do not require a pilot. Unlike most other aircraft, drones can hover for hours collecting intelligence material. They cost about $3,500 per flight hour, compared to about $8,000 per flight hour to fly, say, an F-16, according to General Atomics.
According to the Air Force, they can buy four MQ-9 aircraft with sensors, a ground station and a satellite link for $56.5 million.
Can an MQ-9 defend itself
General Atomics says the MQ-9 has “demonstrated an air-to-air weapons capability” in Air Force tests. It can also be equipped with a “Self Protect Pod” that can detect threats and countermeasure against surface-to-air weapons.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)