The MQ-9 Reaper can operate without paved runways

The MQ-9 Reaper, a US Air Force military drone, makes a successful landing on a patch of dirt, freeing it from reliance on paved runways.

This advancement represents a new operational capability and greater versatility in intense combat scenarios.

The US-owned MQ-9B drone is expanding its range of action in India, where it will strengthen its surveillance on the Line of Actual Control with China and in the Indian Ocean. This strategic advance represents a significant increase in the security of key areas within the Indian territory.

HALE UAV acquisition powers Indian Armed Forces

India’s procurement of 31 High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drones is the result of an extensive process. The search for self-sufficiency in defense and restrictions on imports has influenced this effort. With advanced payloads, these HALE UAVs have been designed for precise, long-duration missions on land and at sea.

Following the Galwan Valley incidents in 2020, the Indian Navy leased two MQ-9 UAVs, extending the contract due to their effectiveness. These UAVs keep watch on Chinese activities in Ladakh and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

MQ-9 Reaper marks milestone with ground landings

The MQ-9 Reaper can operate without paved runways
MQ-9-Drone

The MQ-9 Reaper has played a vital role in the Indian Navy, monitoring over 14 million square miles. Recently, the drone managed to land on a ground landing zone, freeing it from reliance on conventional paved runways. This breakthrough opens up new possibilities in intense combat scenarios.

The feat was accomplished during Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) training at a remote dirt track in Texas on June 15. This achievement was considered a significant advance within the military community.

Advances that revolutionize military strategy

The MQ-9 Reaper can operate without paved runways
An MQ-9 Reaper, assigned to the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron, lands at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, in support of Northern Edge 2021 on May 3, 2021. (United States Air Force)

This progress means that the Reaper drone no longer needs an “antenna line of sight” to take off and land, expanding its operational range and flexibility. Lt. Col. Brian Flanigan, 2nd SOS director of operations, hailed these developments as a critical step for Air Force Reserve Command, the MQ-9 community, AFSOC and the joint force.

The Air Force is reassessing its reliance on bases and airstrips, which could be targeted during conflicts. Thus, combat in remote locations is being strengthened to improve the chances of survival and tactical flexibility.