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12/13/2011 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- An Air Force MQ-9 Reaper crashed at the Seychelles International Airport in Mahe at 10:22 a.m. Dec. 13. [See Map]
The MQ-9 was not armed and no injuries were reported. The Seychelles government leaders were immediately notified, and the U.S. military and the Civil Aviation Authority of Seychelles are coordinating the removal of debris. The runway at the airport has reopened for normal traffic.
The cause of the incident is unknown and currently under investigation. More information will be released as it becomes available. (Courtesy of U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs)
This is not the same kind of drone that recently fell into the hands of Iran's military in early December. That one is an RQ-170 Sentinel. A report by AP today says that "U.S. officials say the unmanned aircraft malfunctioned and was not brought down by Iran. President Barack Obama said Monday the U.S. wants the top-secret aircraft back and has delivered a formal request for the return of the surveillance drone, though it isn't hopeful that Iran will comply."
There is speculation that Iran may have hacked into the computer controls of the RQ-170. There will probably be the same question raised about today's crash of the MQ-9. Reports in late 2009 told how inexpensive software can be used to disrupt the on board controls of a drone aircraft. In a December 17, 2009 article, the Wall Street Journal reported that "Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations."
The MQ-0 Reaper is manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
General Characteristics of the MQ-9 Reaper:
Primary Function: Unmanned hunter/killer weapon system
Contractor: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
Power Plant: Honeywell TPE331-10GD turboprop engine
Thrust: 900 shaft horsepower maximum
Wingspan: 66 feet (20.1 meters)
Length: 36 feet (11 meters)
Height: 12.5 feet (3.8 meters)
Weight: 4,900 pounds (2,223 kilograms) empty
Maximum takeoff weight: 10,500 pounds (4,760 kilograms)
Fuel Capacity: 4,000 pounds (602 gallons)
Payload: 3,750 pounds (1,701 kilograms)
Speed: Cruise speed around 230 miles per hour (200 knots)
Range: 1,150 miles (1,000 nautical miles)
Ceiling: Up to 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
Armament: Combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions
Crew (remote): Two (pilot and sensor operator)
Unit Cost: $53.5 million (includes four aircraft with sensors) (fiscal 2006 dollars)
Initial operating capability: October 2007
Inventory: Active force, 47; ANG, 1; Reserve, 0
Source: U.S. Air Force