The Air Force Special Operations Command runs 37 Reaper drones that have just been upgraded with better sensors, upgraded weapons software, and extra fuel tanks so they can kill more targets and watch more objectives on missions against ISIS and other enemies.


An MQ-9 Reaper on the flightline. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. John Bainter

All this comes at a cost to weight. To increase thrust and improve takeoff performance, a system to inject alcohol and water into the engine was added and a four-bladed propeller was incorporated. The landing gear was also improved.

American drones have already had a lot of success in the fight against ISIS. Jihadi John, the British-born militant who conducted many of the Islamic State's early, high-profile executions, was killed by two Hellfire missiles fired from a drone.

A drone strike in Jul. 2015 killed 31 insurgents including Hafiz Saeed, the man thought to have led ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The drones were upgraded under a $34 million Medium Altitude Long Endurance Tactical (MALET) Lead-Off Hitter (LOH) contract.