Nov. 5 (UPI) -- General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is receiving a $10.7 million contract for weather tolerance work on the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle.
The MQ-9 SkyGuardian, more generally known as the Reaper, is a development of the legacy MQ-1 Predator designed to be larger and able to carry bigger payloads of sensors and heavier weapons.
It is designed primarily for attack missions and precision strikes against point targets but can also be used for surveillance, close air support, and reconnaissance.
Work on the contract, which was announced Friday by the Department of Defense, will be funded by Air Force fiscal 2018 research, development, test and evaluation funding, with $4.2 million already obligated to General Atomics.
Weather-proofing is essential to protect the Reaper's sophisticated flight and weapons systems from storms, ice build-up and extreme temperatures.
The Reaper has long-range endurance and loiter time and carries the advanced Multi-Spectral Targeting System for identifying and engaging targets.The suite for the MSTS includes infrared cameras, laser designators, and video systems. It has satellite uplink/downlink capabilities that allow its sensor data to be shared across networks.
The drone has a faster cruise speed then the Predator and a flight ceiling of up to 40,000 feet, requiring sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons to bring it down at high altitude. The aircraft can be armed with laser-guided missiles and bombs like the Hellfire and GBU-12 Paveway, as well as the GPS-guided GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.