A software upgrade on the MQ-9 Reaper drone has doubled its capacity to carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles from four to eight, bolstering the platform’s “persistent attack” role.
The upgrade allows flexibility to load the extra Hellfire missiles on the aircraft’s stations that previously were reserved for 500 lb. class bombs or fuel tanks, a statement from the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron said.
“Aside from the extra hardware required to be on-hand, no other changes are required to support this new capability and added lethality,” said Master Sgt. Melvin French, Test System Configuration Manager.
“The Reaper retains its flexibility to fly 500 lb. bombs on any of these stations, instead of the AGM‑114s, when mission requirements dictate,” he added.
MQ-9 Reaper Takes Flight with 8 Hellfire Missiles
“Doubling the Hellfire capacity increases the MQ-9 flexibility, responsiveness, and lethality.”
— Air Combat Command (@USAF_ACC) September 30, 2020
The upgrade is part of the MQ-9 Operational Flight Program 2409 — a software upgrade program to be fielded by the end of this year.
Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operations Command, who set the scope for each MQ-9 Operation Flight Program update, had asked for the upgrade.
More Dynamism to MQ9’s Mission
The option to add more Hellfire missiles to the Reaper’s arsenal adds dynamism to missions where more firepower at a sustained rate is required.
It allows the platform to maintain its “persistent attack ability” to engage the target for a longer duration, without having to think of slowing its “kill chain” and to “coordinate for additional kinetic support to engage a priority target.”
“Doubling the firepower of this high-endurance aircraft with Hellfires improves the lethality and agility of the MQ-9 over many combat roles,” said Lt. Col. Michael Chmielewski, commander, 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron.