The deadly drone that killed Qassem Soleimani weighs as much as an African elephant

The MQ-9 Reaper drone, which conducted the air strike to assasinate Iran's Qasem SoleimaniWikipedia
  • The MQ-9 Reaper drone is known for being one the deadliest unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the world.
  • Most recently it carried out the air strike to assassinate Iran's Qassem Soleimani, who's funeral is today with more than a million marching to mourn his death.
  • The drone weighs as much as an elephant, can fly higher than commercial aircraft yet be pin-drop silent a mere 250 meters from the ground.
The MQ-9 Reaper, or ‘Predator B’ drone has only one objective — to find, fix and finish its targets. One of the deadliest drones in US’ arsenal is used against ‘ dynamic execution targets’. On January 2, it assassinated Iran’s military general, Qassem Soleimani.

Today, Soleimani’s funeral procession is one of the largest ever in Iran with more than a million people flooding the streets and chanting ‘Iran’s wearing black, revenge, revenge’.

The MQ-9 Reaper drone is regarded as one of the deadliest in the world. Not just because of its speed and firepower, but also because of its stealth.

Advertisement

The successor to the MQ-1 Predator drone is capable of flying 250 metres off the ground without anyone below even knowing that it’s there unless they look it up.

The ‘M’ in its name stands for ‘multi-role’ while the 9 designates where it falls in the series of unmanned aerial vehicles ( UAVs).

At the cost of $64.2 million per unit, the US Air Force has bought 93 of these deadly machines from the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

Advertisement

Here’s what makes the MQ-9 Reaper the world’s most feared drone:

{{}}

​The MQ-9 Reaper is designed to be a lean, mean, fighting machine

​The MQ-9 Reaper is designed to be a lean, mean, fighting machine

The predator drone is “an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted air fact that is employed primarily against dynamic execution targets and secondarily as an intelligence collection asset,” according to the US Air Force.

​The drone weighs 2,223 kilos with a wingspan of 20 metres

​The drone weighs 2,223 kilos with a wingspan of 20 metres

20 metres is roughly two stories of a building — or around the same size at the Gateway of India in Mumbai. Considering its expanse, the aircraft only weighs the same as an African forest elephant — the smallest of all the elephants.

Advertisement

It can fly up to 15 kilometres in the air while carrying 1,701 kilograms

It can fly up to 15 kilometres in the air while carrying 1,701 kilograms

This means the MQ-9 Reaper drone is capable of flying above most commercial aircraft that cruise between 9 to 11 kilometres above sea level. As its cruising at such a high altitude where winds are faster and visibility is questionable, the drone is also capable of carrying 1,701 kilograms in addition to its own weight.

The MQ-9 Reaper can go as fast as 482 kilometres per hour

The MQ-9 Reaper can go as fast as 482 kilometres per hour

The MQ-9 Reaper drone can go as fast as 482 kilometres per hour (kph), but it has a cruising speed of 370 kph. While that may be slower than some other drones in the market — like the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk that can hit 629 kph — it’s one of the marginal compromises made in exchange for stealth.

Advertisement

Even at just 250 to 300 metres above the ground, the MQ-9 Reaper drone hardly makes any noise

Even at just 250 to 300 metres above the ground, the MQ-9 Reaper drone hardly makes any noise

During the 2019 Aviation Nation airshow, the MQ-9 Reaper drone was out of place among the other ear-splitting aircraft. It silently flew by for a single demo, reportedly sending shivers down viewers’ spines, as its Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop engine barely made a peep.

It’s remotely operated by a pilot and a sensor operator that control the drone from 1,850 kilometres away

It’s remotely operated by a pilot and a sensor operator that control the drone from 1,850 kilometres away

The best characteristic of the MQ-Reaper, like all other drones, is that it doesn’t need a human pilot. This means if there’s a chance that a mission could go wrong, no human lives will be put at risk. In fact, operators can be as far as 1,850 kilometres from the drone and still perform manoeuvres. That distance is almost the same as the north to south width of Russia.

Advertisement

The MQ-9 Reaper drone lays down more than one net to catch its prey

The MQ-9 Reaper drone lays down more than one net to catch its prey

The US Air Force drone is equipped with a Multi-Spectral Targeting System (MSTS). That means even before the target is within the drone’s line of sight, there are already numerous visual sensors locking on. This includes an infrared sensor, colour daylight TV camera, image intensified TV camera, laser range finder and laser illuminator.

US' deadliest drone packs a lot of firepower

US' deadliest drone packs a lot of firepower

The MQ-9 Reaper drone is capable of firing a combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway III bombs and GB-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions bombs.

Advertisement