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First Participation of MQ-9 in US Marines Service Level Training Exercise in US.

| 2023

On July 25, 2023, in California, a historic event took place as the MQ-9 Reaper of the US Air Force, belonging to the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, participated for the first time in the Marine Corps Service Level Training Exercise (SLTE) 5-23, which also integrated an Agile Combat Employment (ACE) exercise. The SLTE 5-23 exercise plays a crucial role in enhancing joint capabilities for the United States.

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First Participation of MQ 9 in SLTE Exercise in the United States 925 001  MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle During SLTE (Picture source: United States DoD)

The MQ-9 is an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV). Developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, this aircraft originates from the United States and has gained widespread recognition for its capabilities and versatile applications on the battlefield.

Since its first flight on February 2, 2001, the MQ-9 Reaper has come a long way. It took six years of development before it was officially introduced on May 1, 2007. Since then, the MQ-9 Reaper has been continuously improved and refined.

The MQ-9 Reaper is equipped with armament, including AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-12, and GBU-38 JDAM bombs, enabling it to reach a maximum altitude of 7,500 meters. This powerful drone is used by several countries, including France, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and has a total weight of 2,223 kg.

The MQ-9 Reaper can reach a speed of 482 km/h. It is equipped with advanced accessories, such as a thermal camera, the AN/APY-8 Lynx II radar, and the AN/DAS-1 MTS-B Multi-Spectral Targeting System. With an endurance ranging from 14 to 28 hours and a range of 5,926 km, this drone is capable of conducting extensive surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Operated by a crew of two, a pilot and a sensor operator, the MQ-9 Reaper's dimensions are also remarkable, with a length of 11.0 meters, a wingspan of 20.1 meters, and a height of 3.8 meters, making it one of the largest drones.

One of the most notable features of the MQ-9 Reaper is its significant endurance, allowing it to stay airborne for extended periods. This capability enables it to conduct long-range reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and surveillance missions, making it an invaluable asset for military intelligence operations.

The MQ-9 Reaper has its origins in the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator. With over 300 units built as of 2021, the Reaper attests to its popularity among the world's leading military forces. As technology evolves continuously, especially with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine where smaller drones are frequently employed by the forces, there is a notable trend towards the development of smaller UAVs due to their reduced cost.

The successful deployment of the MQ-9 Reaper has transformed the landscape of modern warfare, demonstrating the enormous potential and advantages offered by unmanned aerial systems. It is certain that in the future, we will witness further developments in drone technology. Nonetheless, the cost of larger drones like the MQ-9 remains a hindrance to their widespread deployment, and the development of smaller UAVs seems to be preferred due to their affordability.

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