Tue 14 March 2023 21:22, UK

The downing of an MQ-9 Reaper drone following a collision with a Russian jet is likely to cost the US Military several million dollars.

The United States military has strongly condemned Russian pilots, after a collision on Tuesday, March 14, 2023, saw a Russian jet down an MQ-9 Reaper drone that was flying over the Black Sea.

The incident will likely stoke tensions between the US and Russia, a historically fractured international relationship that has been put under further strain following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

And some people are wondering about the potential cost of a new MQ-9 Reaper drone, should the military opt to replace the downed aircraft.

What is the MQ-9 Reaper?

The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper is typically referred to as the MQ-9 Reaper or Predator B, and has been used by military personnel in the US since 2007.

The MQ-9 is a UAV, a term many may have heard in video games like Call Of Duty, that stands for Unmanned Ariel Vehicle, meaning its travels are controlled remotely, without the need for an onboard pilot.

MQ-9s are heavyweight aircraft that are intended to be used strictly for military operations. Newer models of the Reaper can reportedly fire multiple missiles within 0.32 seconds of one another and can fly unmanned for up to 40 hours.

Having been originally deployed by the US during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars of the 2000s, MQ-9 Reapers have since been used by various militaries globally, including the United Kingdom and France.

Cost of the MQ-9 Reaper explored

As of March 2021, the US Air Force has stated that the unit cost of an MQ-9 Reaper is $56.5 million, for a package that includes “four aircraft with sensors, ground control station and Predator Primary satellite link”.

Unsurprisingly, given the aircraft’s speed and frighteningly quick firing rate, the cost of an MQ-9 Reaper would put a dent in the military budget of any nation.

Photo by Fabrizio Villa/Getty Images

In April 2021, the US defense department quoted the Australian government an estimated figure of $1.651 billion, when they enquired about buying 12 MQ-9 Reapers, along with the relevant equipment and supplies.

It was reported in 2020 that the US was looking to replace the MQ-9 in the early 2030s, in the hope of using a newer drone model that could utilize artificial intelligence technology.

US European Command laments Russian pilots

The news of the downing of the MQ-9 triggered a stern response from the European wing of the US Air Force, who warned of the potential ramifications of the incident.

James B. Hecker, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa claimed that: “Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9”.

Hecker went on to label the behavior of the Russians “unsafe and unprofessional”, claiming that the crash could have resulted in both aircraft going down, before warning that the crash could lead to “unintended escalation” between the US and Russia.

The Russian defense ministry played down the incident, explaining to The Guardian that: “As a result of sharp manoeuvring around 9.30 (Moscow time), the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle went into uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface”.

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