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Reaper exhibit opens at Air Force museum

A fully armed MQ-9 Reaper taxis down an Afghanistan runway Nov. 4. The Reaper has flown 49 combat sorties since it first began operating in Afghanistan Sept. 25. It completed its first combat strike Oct. 27, when it fired a Hellfire missile over Deh Rawod, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

A MQ-9 Reaper exhibit opened Jan. 25, 2010 at National Museum of the U.S Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

DAYTON, Ohio (1/26/10) -- Air Force and industry officials joined National Museum of the U.S Air Force officials for the opening of the museum's new
MQ-9 Reaper exhibit Jan. 25 here.

As a medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft, the Reaper locates and destroys time-critical and highly mobile targets and provides real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to military commanders.

"The Reaper provides the best combination of lethality and persistence most valuable to commanders," said retired Gen. John P. Jumper, the former Air Force chief of staff. "We've come a long way since the days of two Hellfire missiles on a (MQ-1) Predator A."

After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Congress directed Air Force officials to order two pre-production YMQ-9s for testing. On Oct. 17, 2003, the YMQ-9 Reaper made its first flight from the General Atomics facility in California. Because of the pressing need for an RPA with the Reaper's capabilities, the Air Force sent the two YMQ-9s to Afghanistan in 2005. The production model MQ-9 Reaper made its first flight in support of Operation Enduring Freedom on Sept. 25, 2007.

"The MQ-9 Reaper evolution as an aircraft represents the kind of innovation and forward thinking that early airpower pioneers would instantly recognize ... people such as the Wright brothers, Theodore von Karmen, Generals Mitchell, Arnold and Schriever," said Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for ISR. "These great Airmen would be proud of the innovative and creative story behind the Mini B."

The museum's Reaper (serial number 02-4002) is one of the two pre-production YMQ-9s sent to Afghanistan. This aircraft was used for the initial weapons testing, flew 14 missions for the Department of Homeland Defense during October-November 2003, and was the first Reaper to fly in Afghanistan. In four years, it flew 3,266 combat hours and 254 combat sorties.

Retired Maj. Gen. Charles D. Metcalf, the museum director, said the Reaper will be displayed near the Global Hawk in the museum's Modern Flight Gallery, giving visitors another way to see how the Air Force is participating in current operations.

"We are proud to be the only place in the world with a permanent public display of a Reaper," Metcalf said. "With the addition of this exhibit, we are giving our visitors the chance to get up close to an aircraft that is serving right now in the Middle East."

The 303rd Aeronautical Systems Wing staff at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, who provides acquisition oversight of the Reaper program by managing contracts and ensuring on-time deliveries, assisted in the effort to place a Reaper on display at the museum.

"Today's event celebrates this historically significant aircraft that changed the future of ISR and our ability to support the warfighter," said Brig. Gen.
John F. Thompson, the Air Force's program executive officer for ISR and commander of the 303rd ASW. "Our organization will continue to usher in Air Force and joint ISR capabilities by developing, acquiring, fielding, modernizing and sustaining the emerging assets of today and tomorrow."

The Reaper is designed and manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. GA-ASI has delivered 45 Reapers to the Air Force since 2001, and Air Force officials plan to transition to an all-Reaper fleet.

"It's a pleasure to be able to participate in the induction of one of the original three prototype Predator B/MQ-9 Reapers into this amazing museum,"
said Thomas J. Cassidy Jr., the president of GA-ASI's aircraft systems group.
"Built on company money and flown in combat by the U.S. Air Force for five years, this aircraft is an example of the capabilities of American industry and what can be accomplished when new technology is taken seriously and given a chance by U.S. military leaders."

The Reaper is operated by Airmen at the 42nd Attack Squadron at Creech AFB, Nev., and the 174th Fighter Wing of the New York Air National Guard, based in Syracuse, N.Y.