According to company spokesman Mark Brinkle, General Atomics is ready to supply Ukraine with unmanned systems from existing stocks "immediately", even before obtaining permission from the US administration.
How safe such a decision would be for the corporation's management from a legal point of view is not entirely clear. Although Washington has begun deliveries that are practically unlimited neither in quantity nor in quality of weapons, nevertheless, Reapers should at least be included in the lists of weapons that the Washington administration draws up for each declared financial tranche. In the near future, the White House intends to announce a new list for another $800 million. It is possible that General Atomics will see the desired "green light" in it.
MQ-9 Reaper ("Reaper") is no longer a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The development of the MQ-1 Predator, on the basis of which the Reaper was created, began in the late 90s. The first flight of an experienced Reaper took place in 2001, and in 2007 the UAV was put into service and almost immediately it began to be used in local armed conflicts organized by the United States in different countries.
The drone is built according to the standard aerodynamic scheme with a 20-meter straight wing and V-tail. The pusher propeller is at the end of the fuselage. The length of the aircraft reaches 11 meters. The maximum takeoff weight is about five tons. The Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop engine develops 900 horsepower. The maximum speed of the Reaper reaches 480 kilometers per hour, and the cruising speed is 310. The flight ceiling exceeds 15 kilometers, but basically the drone flies at half the heights for about 36 hours. During this time, he can fly to a distance of up to 1900 kilometers.
The drone can fly independently according to a given program, but also has a secure satellite connection and control. Thanks to this, two operators can be located both at the drone’s base airfield and in any corner of the world.
For reconnaissance and the use of weapons, Reaper is equipped with an AN / DAS-1 MTS-B optoelectronic station, a laser rangefinder-target designator, and an AN / APY-8 Lynx II radar with mapping functions. Hanging containers can accommodate electronic warfare equipment.
At seven points of external suspension under the wing and fuselage is placed about one and a half tons of various ammunition. Typically, the MQ-9 is armed with AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, but the drone can also drop guided bombs and fire air-to-air missiles in self-defense.
Brinkle assured reporters that Ukrainian operators and technicians familiar with the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 would be able to quickly learn the tricks of working with the American Reaper. As you know, for novice operators, a full course of study takes a year, training of technicians takes a little less. But no matter how tense, quickly, at least in a few weeks, people can not be trained. And this means that the use of heavy drones MQ-9 Reaper is postponed indefinitely.
There are two ways out of this situation. The first is that the main thing for the company is to give away its products and receive the due remuneration from Washington. Whether Reapers will be able to fly and fight, and how effectively, General Atomics, by and large, does not care. Moreover, the Reaper does not have experience in using the MQ-9 in military operations, in which the drone will have to withstand an advanced system of radar cover, air defense and electronic warfare.
Until now, this UAV has been used in conflicts in which the enemy did not control his airspace. But even there, the appearance of single anti-aircraft systems created an insurmountable obstacle for the drone. There have even been cases when a drone was shot down from automatic small arms.
However, sending the MQ-9 to Ukraine is important for General Atomics not only as another source of income, but also as experience in adverse conditions. This experience is worth a lot, if, of course, the "Reaper" gets to the Ukrainian pastures. Some American media have published publications that acknowledge the effectiveness of Russia's use of high-precision weapons against Western weapons delivered to the Lviv region. Thus, The Military Watch Magazine wrote that "the most important weapons collection points have been destroyed."
Washington's appeal to the second way to solve the problem of the Kiev regime's shortage of time, by and large, would be stupid. The Reaper can be controlled via satellite from anywhere in the world. The Americans could easily put their experienced operators behind the consoles somewhere in Poland, or at least in the state of Maryland. But in this case, one can only hope that no one will find out about the direct participation of the American military personnel in the hostilities in Ukraine.