No new bomb planned for RAF Reapers, MoD confirms

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Work to assess the introduction of a new air-to-surface missile with the Royal Air Force's General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Reaper remotely piloted air systems will not be expanded to investigate the feasibility of changing the type's current laser-guided bomb, the UK's Ministry of Defence confirms.

"There are currently no plans to test [Raytheon Systems'] Paveway IV [precision-guided bomb] on [the] Reaper," the MoD says, responding to a query from Flightglobal.

The MoD has confirmed plans to perform tests in the USA later this year with a Reaper carrying MBDA Brimstone missiles, with the dual-mode seeker-equipped weapon to be used in place of the Reaper's current Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfires.

New figures released by the MoD have highlighted the RAF's continuing preference for using the Reaper's lower-yield Hellfire missiles during operations in Afghanistan, versus the aircraft's 230kg (500lb) Raytheon GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs. The remotely-piloted type carries four and two of the weapons, respectively, during missions flown from Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan.

 

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"As of 11 May 2013, 335 Hellfire precision-guided missiles and 51 GBU-12 laser-guided bombs had been released from UK Reapers in support of UK and coalition forces in Afghanistan," armed forces minister James Robathan says.

This combined total of 386 weapons released has been accumulated through more than 45,000 flight hours involving Reaper air vehicles since late 2007, with no Paveway-series weapons released since 2011.

The RAF's Reapers are primarily used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks, which do not result in the deployment of the type's armaments.