MQ-9 Upgrades for near-peer adversaries

US Air Force starts MQ-9 Reaper upgrades to keep UAV relevant against sophisticated foes – link

Source: Flight Global

Article Headlines
  • The USAF has started upgrades to part of its MQ-9 Reaper fleet to keep the UAVs effective against near-peer adversaries, such as China and Russia.
  • The intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft was originally used for operations against terrorists and insurgents, but has since shown to be vulnerable to surface-to-air missile batteries fielded by more sophisticated foes. Its payloads also tend to be focused on countering terrorists and insurgents; capabilities that are less relevant against modern militaries.
  • The MQ-9 program office is wrapping up initial fleet upgrades to diminish the threat of command-and-control jamming, the USAF says.
  • The program is also increasing the MQ-9’s onboard electrical power by an unspecified amount and is developing a new open architecture for the UAV. The USAF says these upgrades will allow the type to quickly integrate new payloads in response to emerging threats.
  • The service says it also plans to upgrade the MQ-9’s electro-optical/infrared camera and expand the types of weapons it can carry.
  • The USAF believes that these upgrades will keep the MQ-9 relevant to the end of its projected service life in 2035. By then, the service aims to have a stealthier replacement UAV, designed specifically to counter threats from Russia and China.
  • That aircraft has been dubbed MQ-Next and is in the early stages of development.
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