TechHigh-stakes skies: The MQ-9A reaper's encounter with Yemen's Huthi rebels

High-stakes skies: The MQ‑9A reaper's encounter with Yemen's Huthi rebels

The MQ-9A Reaper drone just before being hit by a missile fired by Houthi rebels.
The MQ-9A Reaper drone just before being hit by a missile fired by Houthi rebels.
Images source: © X (formerly known as Twitter) | War Noir

9:15 AM EST, November 9, 2023

The MQ-9A Reaper drone, manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, was shot down over Yemen. The culprits are believed to be the Huthi rebels who are known supporters of Hamas. This article will detail how they managed this feat and examine the accomplishments of the so-called 'terrorist hunter'.

The US have been closely monitoring the situation in Yemen, which has of late become a launching pad for ballistic missile attacks on Israel. Supported by Hamas, the Huthi rebels have been carrying out these launches, with Israel's Arrow-3 anti-ballistic system being the country's primary defense. This attack style leaves virtually no risk for retaliatory action by Israel.

The MQ-9A Reaper drones face a potential challenge from more than just the common handheld anti-aircraft missile launchers such as the Russian Igla and the Polish Piorun - their altitude keeps them out of reach from these weapons. However, the Huthis appear to be using something of a larger scale, likely vehicle-mounted like the 2K12 Kub anti-aircraft system, which is capable of reaching a target at altitudes up to 9.3 miles.

The MQ-9A Reaper: US' updated terrorist hunter

The General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9A Reaper, also known as Predator B, is an advanced version of the renowned MQ-1 Predator drones, formerly used by the United States Air Force (USAF). Each Reaper, costing $56.6 million (as of 2011), is utilized primarily for reconnaissance missions and strikes against terrorists.

The U.S. has deployed these drones globally, from Africa to the Middle East, and along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. In many past cases, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles have been used in attacks, causing substantial collateral damage. This issue was mitigated somewhat by the introduction of the R9X Hellfire Ninja missile.

The MQ-9A Reaper is a High Altitude, Long Endurance (HALE) drone, capable of operating at 50,000 feet for over 27 hours. It's due to these capabilities that the MQ-9A Reaper is such a large drone, weighing 2.43 tons when empty and boasting a 66-feet wingspan. A Honeywell TPE331-10GD gasoline engine powers the drone, which accommodates a fuel reserve weighing, 3900 lbs.

Besides that, the MQ-9A Reaper can carry an additional 3750 lbs of equipment across seven pylons. This load can include a variety of components such as high-resolution observation heads with daytime and infrared cameras, radar, laser rangefinders and target indicators, electronic warfare containers, signal amplifiers or weaponry:

  • Paveway II family laser-guided bombs,
  • AGM-114 Hellfire guided anti-tank missiles,
  • AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles
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