A previously undisclosed MQ-9 Reaper crash in the Central Command area of responsibility was caused by the armed drone's depleted backup batteries and generator failure, according to an Air Force investigation report released Thursday.
The investigation does not say where the aircraft was flying or what operation it was supporting. The MQ-9 was carrying an undisclosed weapons load, and was destroyed at a loss of $14.1 million.
The aircraft was flown by a crew from the 432nd Attack Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.
The MQ-9 took off Dec. 12, 2014, from an undisclosed deployed operating base on a classified mission in the Middle East, according to the Accident Investigation Board report. Shortly after takeoff, the Reaper's pilot briefly lost satellite link with the aircraft. When the connection was re-established, the pilot's control screen displayed a battery warning and a starter-generator failure.
The pilot attempted to reroute the aircraft to a predetermined location where a launch and recovery element could retrieve the aircraft. On the way, however, the Reaper lost battery to the point where it couldn't lower its landing gear. The launch and recovery element on the mission directed the Reaper to intentionally crash in nearby mountains.
The report states the primary cause was the failure of the generator, along with the depletion of the backup batteries. Additionally, a delay in uploading software for the launch and recovery element added additional loiter time, and a decision to not lower the landing gear earlier contributed to the decision to crash the aircraft.
There were no injuries and no damage to government or private property, according to the report. While the report does not detail the armament of the Reaper, the aircraft can fly with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.