The U.S has added new and additional capabilities to its MQ-9 Reaper fleet.

According to the assistant director of operations at the U.S Air Force 174th Operations Support Squadron, capabilities include battlefield and airspace communications enhancements as well as target identification tracking and processing.

The assistant director of operations explained there are three separate pods; the Freedom Pod, Centerline Avionics Bay Pod and the REAP Pod.

Each pod is manufactured by a contractor which specialises in its unique function, leveraging expertise from previous programmes, say the USAF.

“We are currently doing an operational assessment of new equipment,” the assistant director of operations was quoted as saying here.

“The pods help the MQ-9 play an increased, more prominent role in the command and control arena of the battlefield. It will be able to receive and pass information to and from older fourth generation and newer fifth-generation aircraft.

From May 3-14th, the pods will demonstrate their capabilities onboard a 174TH ATKW MQ-9 focusing on a higher level of integration with additional air and ground based assets during Pacific Command’s premier exercise, Northern Edge, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.”

The UK currently operates 9 of these aircraft, they will soon be replaced by ‘Protector‘.
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James Fennell
James Fennell
1 month ago
Reaper
Reaper
1 month ago
Reply to  James Fennell

Yeah, that extra one to the USAFs 190+ IS important.

MikeB1947
MikeB1947
1 month ago

With regard to the the UK replacing RQ-9s with “Protectors”, I often wonder what has happened to BAE’s supposed successful programme of UAV development. Following Mantis and Taranis, it has all gone very quiet.

James Fennell
James Fennell
1 month ago
Reply to  MikeB1947

Mantis formed the basis of the UK-French MALE prpgramme which was cancelled for Protector, that system was sold with BAe’s stake in Airbus and it is now the core of the Euromale programme.comment image&f=1&nofb=1

Steve R
Steve R
1 month ago
Reply to  MikeB1947

To be honest I think we should use Taranis as the basis for the Royal Navy’s proposed carrier-borne AEW and A2A refuelling drones.

It fits within the weight category for the proposed catapults. Cheaper than a completely new design.

Charles Verrier
Charles Verrier
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve R

I’m pretty sure Taranis was only ever a technology demonstrator, so a new design is inevitable even if based on Taranis

MikeB1947
MikeB1947
1 month ago

BAE have flown 3 technology demonstrators – Herti, Mantis and Taranis. They have never got past that stage and proposed any full scale production UAVs and I begin to think that they have given up on the idea. Perhaps they realise that they cannot now catch up with the US and Israel.

James
James
1 month ago

Could we not keep hold of our handful of them and do a few upgrades too, surely they cant be that expensive to keep on the books with regards to maintenance and deployment?

DP
DP
1 month ago

Begs the question, does anyone know whether our new Protector fleet will have the functionality the Freedom, Centre-line and REAP pods possess? Also, are we developing the Protector fleet to support the P-8s for over water patrol/SAR functions?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago
Reply to  DP

Also, are we developing the Protector fleet to support the P-8s for over water patrol/SAR functions?”

I believe so, yes.

GHF has covered that possibility at length on the forum.

John N
John N
1 month ago

You might be interested in reading this, it’s the very recent (a few weeks ago), US DSCA approval announcement for 12 x MQ-9B for the RAAF:

https://www.dsca.mil/press-media/major-arms-sales/australia-mq-9b-remotely-piloted-aircraft

You’ll notice that the RAAF will be procuring both land and maritime radars for its MQ-9B, effectively meaning that the aircraft can be configured as either SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian variants.

i would assume the RAF MQ-9B (Protector) fleet will be similarly equipped?

Cheers,

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago
Reply to  John N

Thanks for link John.

James Fennell
James Fennell
1 month ago

The advantage of MQ-9B is that it can fly in UK commercial airspace, and recent images show the SeaGuardian, so yes is the likely answer. MQ-9A is likely yo remain in service for use in the Middle East and non-commercial airspace.

Last edited 1 month ago by James Fennell
Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago
Reply to  James Fennell

That would be a big force increase if that is the case.

dan
dan
1 month ago

The Brits should hop on the upgrade wagon. Do it while the USAF is doing it and it will be a lot cheaper than doing later.

UK Voter
UK Voter
1 month ago

We should be building our own UAVs.
It feels like the UK is slipping further and further behind.
Hopefully Tempest will renew our outlook. But we should be working with other countries outside Europe on projects. CANZUK, Japan, India, Turkey
But I do like the BAE solar powered drone that flies close to space.
https://www.baesystems.com/en/product/phasa-35

But we should let BAE build and export a new generation of drone munitions and stealth uavs.
But of course that would mean higher spending on defence! 3% of gdp anyone??

MikeB1947
MikeB1947
1 month ago
Reply to  UK Voter

As I said earlier, with regard to the possibility of UK-built military UAVs, there appears to be nothing in the pipeline from BAE or any other British company. Therefore, the MoD seem to be content to continue with new and upgraded versions of US-built kit.