MQ-9 Reaper Drone Flies with Double Hellfire Missiles in New Test

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A new software update on the MQ-9 Reaper allows the hunter-killer drone to carry eight AGM-114 Hellfire missiles — double its usual capacity, according to a service release.

As part of “Operational Flight Program 2409,” members of the 556th Test and Evaluation month with the increased payload. The MQ-9 typically carries four Hellfires total under its wings. Squadron, Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, flew the unmanned autonomous vehicle earlier this

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With the upgrade, Hellfires pylons that previously were reserved for 500-lb. bombs, such as the GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, or for fuel tanks, can now carry the additional missiles, the release said.

“History has proven the MQ-9’s ability to provide aerial continuity and attack support for air and ground forces during counter-insurgency and Close Air Support,” Lt. Col. Michael Chmielewski, commander of the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron, said in the release.

“Doubling the firepower of this high-endurance aircraft with Hellfires improves the lethality and agility of the MQ-9 over many combat roles, with an arsenal of highly versatile, accurate, and collateral-friendly weapons for all combatant commanders.”

The MQ-9 has a payload of 3,750 pounds and carries a combination of Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 JDAMs, according to the service.

Master Sgt. Melvin French, Test System Configuration Manager for the program, explained that the MQ-9’s weapons load remains flexible, because munitions can be swapped in and out to fit the mission.

“Aside from the extra hardware required to be on-hand, no other changes are required to support this new capability and added lethality,” French said in the release.

The latest news follows another recent exercise in which the Air Force tested whether airmen at multiple locations could coordinate to execute the same