According to General James Hecker, the drone was performing “routine operations in international airspace”. The American army itself nevertheless touts the capabilities of the Reaper MQ-9 drones for surveillance and intelligence gathering. Remotely piloted, this American-made aircraft is effectively equipped with ultra-modern on-board sensors (optronic ball and radar), which are effective for carrying out surveillance operations at a cruising speed of 335 km/h.
With a wingspan of 20 meters and a length of 11 meters, this 4.5 tonne machine has also been armed since 2019, hence its name, “Reaper”translated by “Reaper” in French. The American army thus used these “killer drones” to carry out strikes in several theaters of operation, such as in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq or even Yemen, where the American central commander acknowledged that one of these drones had been shot down in 2019.
The French army was similarly able to use such drones in Mali and then throughout the Sahelo-Saharan zone where the Barkhane force was deployed. A strike was notably carried out in February 2022 using such a device to neutralize a jihadist column which had just entered Burkina Faso.