With news that the MQ-9 Reaper has gained the ability to drop the GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, this unmanned aerial vehicle has gained some new capabilities. But this leads to a big question: What else can a Reaper carry?
Here's a look at some options:
1. AGM-114 Hellfire
This is perhaps the oldest of the UAV-mounted weapons, making its debut off the MQ-1 Predator. With a range of five miles and a 20-pound high-explosive warhead, the Hellfire proved to be very capable at killing high-ranking terrorists — after its use from the Apache proved to be the bane of enemy tanks.
AGM-114 Hellfire missiles (Creative Commons photo)
2. GBU-12 Paveway II
While the 2,000-pound GBU-24 and GBU-10 got much more press, the GBU-12 is a very important member of the Paveway laser-guided bomb family. Its most well-known application came when it was used for what was called "tank plinking" in Desert Storm. GBU-12s, though, proved very valuable in the War on Terror, largely because they caused much less collateral damage than the larger bombs.
Super Hornet pilot checks a GBU-12 - a laser-guided 500-pounder.
3. GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)
This is the 500-pound version of the JDAM family. While it has a larger error zone than the laser-guided bombs, it still comes close enough to ruin an insurgent's day. The GPS system provides a precision option when weather — or battlefield smoke — makes laser guidance impractical.
Aviation Ordnancemen place a weapons cart of GBU-38 500-pound satellite guided bombs on an ordnance elevator on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate Airman Stephen Early)
4. AGM-176 Griffin
This missile has longer range and a smaller warhead, but it still packs enough punch to kill some bad guys. The Griffin has both a laser seeker and GPS guidance. In addition to blasting insurgents out of positions with minimal collateral damage, Griffin is also seen as an option to dealing with swarms of small boats, like Iranian Boghammers.
USS Firebolt fires a version of the AGM-176 Griffin missile. (U.S. Navy photo)