General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has announced a redesign of the MQ-9 Reaper landing gear. The change, which adds a trailing arm the unmanned air vehicle's main landing gear, will be included on new-build Block 5 MQ-9s and is retrofittable to existing aircraft.
The new landing gear allows significant improvement over current versions. According to General Atomics, equipped aircraft will gain 30% landing weight capacity, allowing aircraft to return with more fuel or heavier payloads. Similar performance metrics, including rejected takeoff loads, are improved.
The enhancement also provides a growth path to increase the air vehicle’s take-off weight to 5,310kg (11,700lb) from a current 4,770kg, plus "provisions for automatic take-off and landing capability", the company said. "Our engineers and suppliers have worked hard to develop a landing gear design that will enhance and extend the utility of this multi-purpose aircraft for our customers," said David Alexander, vice president of engineering.
© General Atomics Aeronautical Systems
Customers of the aircraft expressed interest in a greater landing weight capacity, though none directly suggested a solution. The retrofit has no customers to date, but contract negotiations are ongoing with an unnamed customer, according to General Atomics.
The new gear system can also be applied and retrofitted to other Predator models, including the MQ-1C Gray Eagle. Testing will begin on a company-owned MQ-1 sometime later this year.
The MQ-9 has become a mainstay of US combat operations in Afghanistan, where rough operating locations and unpredictable flight schedules are common.