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Reaper model represents advances in technology

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Hand warmers and ear muffs were valuable gear Dec. 10 as a crowd gathered before Bldg. 560 in Area B at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to dedicate a model of the MQ-9, better known as the Reaper and, previously, as the Predator.

The Reaper is a medium-altitude, armed, remotely piloted aircraft designed for long-endurance intelligence collection as well as the performance of strike, coordination and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting and time-sensitive targets. ›e "M" stands for its ability to serve in multiple roles, the "Q" is the Department of Defense designation for remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), and the 9 indicates this is the ninth in this series of aircraft.

Through a biting wind, officials from the Air Force, as well as Reaper contractor General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., acknowledged the symbolism of the model that now stands just down the road from - yet light years beyond - the Wright Flyer statue.

"I think it is only appropriate that, of all the models we have displayed here in the Acquisition Management Complex, this aircraft, which represents RPAs in general as well as a change in powered flight as we know it, stands so close to the Wright Brothers' Wright B flight memorial," said Lt. Gen John ›ompson, commander, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.

Thompson also expressed his gratitude to all those who contributed to the design, development and evolution of the MQ-9, "and, in fact, for all the work that you do every day on all of our weapons systems ... many times at the expense of family and at the expense of things happening in your lives that more than likely should take precedence over work."

Thompson added that there are currently more than 150 RPA aircraft being used in training and operations around the world and they have just passed 600,000 hours in flight time.  

Linden Blue, CEO of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., also addressed the crowd, saying, "I want to thank all of you who have worked on the (MQ-9) program. It's the relationship with you -- the human relationship -- that ultimately makes success for any kind of program like this."

He added, "We always try to be aware that every day these aircraft are out there flying, providing persistent and affordable situational   awareness to the military, and perhaps most important, protecting our ground forces. We are constantly thinking about what we can do to help you improve the responsiveness of these aircraft. I am so grateful for all you do, in the Air Force, to defend our nation."  

Following the presentations, Thompson and Blue were joined by Col. William Leister, senior material leader of the Predator/ Reaper program, as they cut the ribbon in front of the new statue and welcomed the assembled crowd indoors for refreshments.