Fear the Reaper: here are some kick-a$$ military drones

Phil Briggs
June 20, 2019 - 11:57 am

Photo By Tech Sgt. Nadine Barclay

Iran’s recent takedown of a U.S. drone certainly turns up the heat in an already tense faceoff in the Persian Gulf.

While Iranian officials claim our drone was violating their airspace, U.S. officials maintain the drone was over international airspace in the Strait of Hormuz. There are even disputes over what type of drone the Iranian Revolutionary Guard actually shot down. 

But one thing is clear when it comes to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), the U.S. military has some seriously deadly drones.

Here are just a few of our favorites:

Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk

US Air Force

This is the drone Iran claims it shot down.  According to Jonathan Feist at DroneRush.com, this is one big beast. “Of all the military drones, this one may be my favorite…. Not because NASA has one flying around, more because this is just a big airplane that has no seats. It has a 130-foot wingspan, take-off weight of 32,000 lbs, a maximum speed of 391 mph, a service ceiling of 60,000 feet and enough oomph to stay in the air for over 32 hours.”

It’s also part Rolls Royce! Boasting a Royce-North American F137-RR-100 turbofan engine it has a speed of 310 knots and a range of 8,700 nautical miles.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Ramon Adelan

Designed for high-altitude, long-endurance recon missions the RQ-4 Global Hawk has an integrated sensor suite that provides intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability worldwide. The system offers a variety of reconnaissance options including being able to provide near real-time coverage of images on the ground and being able to track communications or signals intelligence. The systems can track movements on the ground during the day, night and even in adverse weather.  There is absolutely no hiding when one of these is looking down.

Iran Revolutionary Guard shoots down US drone amid tensions

RQ-12A Wasp AE: Big punch, Small package

Photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron Parks

This folding drone packs a serious punch when deployed by Marines on the ground.  It has camera sensors under a 29-inch wingspan. Marines can pack this bad boy into a backpack, then get 45 minutes of flight at up to 40 mph for instant recon and enemy surveillance. And nothing is more dangerous than Devildogs who can see you before you see them. 

Fast AF: QF-4 Aerial Target

US Air Force

So should we encounter an enemy with their own fighter jets, we can just deploy this supersonic decoy.  The stats on this are crazy:

  • Power: Two General Electric turbojet engines with afterburners
  • Speed: 1,600 mph (Mach 2)
  • Range: 1,300 miles

According to Military.com,“The supersonic QF-4 is a reusable full-scale, remotely piloted aerial target modified from the F-4 Phantom fighter jet. The QF-4 provides a realistic full-scale target for air-to-air weapons system evaluation, development, and testing. The QF-4 is equipped to carry electronic and infrared countermeasures to fully evaluate fighters and weapons flown and fired against it. ... It is also flown unmanned when missiles are fired at it, and an explosive device is placed in the QF-4 to destroy the aircraft if it inadvertently becomes uncontrollable."

CENTCOM claims attack on tankers wasn't the first move Iran has made in the Gulf of Oman this month

The Raven

Photo by Mark Olsen

The RQ-11B Raven small unmanned aircraft system provides real-time direct battlespace awareness and target information for Joint Special Operations troops in the U.S. military.

Manufactured by Aerovironment, Inc. it’s currently being used by all branches of the military. As with the Wasp, it’s small with a wingspan of 4.5 feet and weighs under 5 pounds. It can operate for 60-90 minutes and can seek enemy targets with a high resolution, day/night camera, and thermal imager.  Now we see you, now you’re dead. 

MQ-1B Predator

Photo by Staff Sgt. Tiffany Trojca

When Hollywood needs a drone for a war movie or TV show, they use this one.

But it’s actually used by the Air Force and CIA, which proves just how badass it is. Though it has stellar reconnaissance abilities, recent versions offer amazing strike capabilities with two mount points for Hellfire missiles, AIM-92 Stingers or AGM-176 ground target missiles. The Predator is also used for; close air support, combat search and rescue, convoy/raid overwatch, route clearance, and precision strikes. Enemy, good night!

Gulf of Oman attacks: It will end badly for Iran

MQ-9 Reaper

Photo by Tech. Sgt. Neil Ballecer

So if you liked the Predator, then you’re going to love the Reaper.

Although reconnaissance is in its blood, this is an absolute war machine with seven mount points for armaments including; a combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM).

The V of the tail points up like a normal plane and, unlike the Predator, this one has some muscle.  It’s powered by a 900 hp Honeywell TPE331-10GD turboprop engine with a speed of 230 mph and a range of 1,150 miles. The larger craft is about 65 feet across with a max flight weight over 10,000 lbs, yet it can reach an altitude of 50,000 feet.

US Air Force

The Reaper also incorporates a laser range finder/designator, which precisely designates targets for laser-guided munitions including the Guided Bomb Unit-12 Paveway II. The Reaper also has special radars to accurately drop the smackdown of JDAMs, laser-guided missiles and the highly accurate Air-to-Ground Missile-114 Hellfire.

Enter the Reaper, game over.



Want to get more connected to the stories and resources Connecting Vets has to offer? Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Follow Phil Briggs @philbriggsVet