Just three days (3rd Jan 2020) from New Year’s Eve at about 1 a.m., the United States conducted a drone strike near the Baghdad International Airport targeting the Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani. This was a successful strike that killed Soleimani, the commander of the Quds force. However, the U.S credits a large part of its successful attack to the MQ-9 Reaper drone.

The U.S., Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain considers the Quds Forces as a terrorist organization. This makes him the second most powerful person in Iran after Sayyid Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran. 

Moreover, this strike is referred to as “2020 Baghdad International Airport Airstrike”. Nine others were killed along with Soleimani. Above all the deputy chairman of PMF and Abu Mahdi, the commander of Kata’ib Hezbollah (also listed as a terrorist) were killed. However, the White House issued a statement that no innocent life was harmed.

MQ-9 Reaper drone strike
A still from the drone strike on 3rd January 2020

The MQ-9 Reaper

The U.S. drone MQ-9 Reaper was used for this inescapable attack. Adding to it the Reaper is larger and more heavily-armed in comparison to the MQ-1 Predator. Plus it attacks time-sensitive targets with persistence, coordinated precision, to destroy or disable those targets. MQ-9 Reaper is a multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft. It is used as an intelligence collection asset, surveillance, reconnaissance, convoy overwatch, and for close air support.

Moreover, the MQ-9 carries a Multi-Spectral Targeting System. It has a robust suite of visual sensors for targeting including infrared sensor, color daylight tv camera, image-intensified tv camera, and a full-motion video sensor. Furthermore, the missiles are guided to the laser locked targets by a laser range finder, designator, and a laser illuminator.

MQ-9 Reaper Drone
The U.S. drone, MQ-9 Reaper, at Eielson Air Force Base

Also, the MQ-9 Reaper is equipped with:-
– four laser-guided missiles
– Air-to-ground Missiles
– 114 Hellfire missiles
This provides high accuracy, low-collateral damage, anti-armor, and anti-personnel engagement capabilities. The drone contains two ground-based crew members, a pilot, and a sensor operator.

Features:-

  • Fuel capacity is 4,000 pounds (1,814.37 kg).
  • Maximum weight is 10,500 pounds (ca. 4,763 kg).
  • The top speed of the drone is 230 miles per hour (370.15 km/h).
  • It can go up to 1,150 miles at a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet (15.24 km).
  • It produces a maximum thrust of 900 shaft horsepower.
  • The total size of the wingspan is 66 feet (20.12 meters) and a dimension of 36 × 12.5 feet.
  • The total cost of the drone is $64.2 Million (457 crore Rupees).