The concept behind the MQ-15 was developed by US defense planners as the nature of global warfare changed back from irregular, low intensity conflicts back to the more traditional conventional ones. The relatively low number of combat RPA’s the Air Force had operated up to this point had been sufficient to deal with the minor security threats the US had needed to handle in the first decade of the twentieth century. However, this changed with the rise of the Sitirian People’s Republic as a major conventional threat. The rather expensive unmanned aircraft currently in service could not be feasibly produced and operated in the numbers required to have a serious effect in a global conventional conflict. This train of thought led to a smaller, cheaper, but still very effective medium hunter-killer platform capable of deploying into the thick of a front in Europe or the Middle East if needed.
Due to cost, the stealth and traditional jet engines of the much heavier combat RPA’s were foregone in favor of a less complicated turboprop engine, allowing the MQ-15 to be deployed in theatre much easier and effectively than its’ larger and more advanced cousins. The Wraith, if lighter, still carried a powerful weapons load, seen here equipped with two GBU-39 Paveway IV laser-guided bombs, and four AGM-184 Lancer air-to-surface missiles.
Specification for the MQ-15:
Type: medium hunter-killer RPA
Crew: 2 (remote operators)
Maximum speed: 512 km/h (318mph)
Range: 1850 km (1150 mi)
Service ceiling: 15240 m (50,000 ft)
Empty weight: 2,200 kg (4,850 lbs)
Armament: 6 hardpoints, capable of loading 1,100 kg (2,500 lbs) of munitions
Operators: United States (Air Force, Air National Guard)
A pair of airmen preform a pre-flight check on an MQ-15 before a sortie.