According to a report issued by Defense News, an extended-range (ER) version of the unmanned aerial vehicle MQ-9 Reaper is due to be purchased by the US Air Force. The new drone’s design would allow it to operate for 42 hours, or 35 hours if loaded with a missile, significantly extending UAV’s flying range.
Although there has been no official comment on related budget submissions, a senior Defense Department source told the media that a request for funding the program will be considered by Congress as early as this March.
“The program is going to go forward,” Chris Pehrson, Director for Strategic Development with Reaper builder General Atomics was quoted as saying. “They’ve approved it; it’s a matter of details now,” he added, declining to comment further on budgetary expectations.
Pehrson explained the demand for longer-range drones by the fading presence of the US military in Afghanistan, as well as by the US pivot to the Pacific and a renewed focus on Africa.
Ultimately, the extended range model would allow the US to make incursions into Pakistan despite the loss of the Afghan bases. Afghanistan is where many US drones have been launched over the past decade, and the number of such launches has recently surged as the troops withdrawal from the country nears.
Read more at RT