GA-ASI Further Expands MQ-9 Mission Capability

26th WPS Flies Reaper® Defense Electronic Support System; High-Def Recording Supports AI/ML Development

Defence Industry

SAN DIEGO. The US Air Force, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) and L3Harris Technologies have collaborated to further expand the mission capabilities of the US Air Force’s versatile MQ-9 Reaper® Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).

For the first time, crews from the Air Force’s 26th Weapons Squadron (WPS) flew an MQ-9 equipped with the Reaper Defense Electronic Support System (RDESS). The flights were conducted in parallel with the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) demonstrations recently in Europe.

RDESS is a broad spectrum, passive Electronic Support Measure (ESM) payload designed to collect and geo-locate signals of interest from standoff ranges. With it, the Reaper becomes an even more versatile surveillance aircraft given its ability to conduct electronic sensing well enough to provide high quality intelligence but also keep safely away in friendly or international airspace.

The flights were accomplished via remote split operations that allowed the 26th WPS to both fly the aircraft and control the RDESS payload from within the United States while the MQ-9 flew in Europe. Additionally, the aircraft flew with a high-capacity, solid-state digital recorder to collect Multi-Spectral Targeting pod data that will be used to further Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) development.

“The MQ-9 continues to demonstrate its robust flexibility,” said GA-ASI Vice President for DoD Strategic Development, JR Reid. “The ability to operate and disseminate information gathered from the advanced sensors carried aboard the MQ-9 is foundational to its role in the great power competition environment. Our efforts in AI and ML is further advancing the MQ-9’s autonomous capabilities which will greatly enhance its mission resiliency during periods of contested electromagnetic spectrum operations.”