Autonomy & AI

MQ-9A Block 5 to Get New Self-Protection Pod Next Year – May 9

By Frank Wolfe | May 16, 2024
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Next year, the Block 5 Extended Range version of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) MQ-9A Reaper drone is to receive a self-protection pod developed by GA-ASI in concert with U.S. Special Operations Command, BAE Systems and Leonardo DRS.

The Airborne Battlespace Awareness and Defense (ABAD) pod is for the MQ-9A Block 5 Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance Tactical (MALET) Extended Range drone in use by Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

ABAD is to detect Radio Frequency (RF) and Infrared (IR) missile threats and enable defensive measures to allow the Reaper to survive and function in contested environments, GA-ASI said on May 9.

“The first phase of contract work evaluated suitable RF Electronic Warfare (EW) and IR countermeasures systems,” GA-ASI said. “This led to the down selection of a next-generation software-defined radio-based EW system from BAE Systems and the AN/AAQ-45 Distributed Aperture Infrared Countermeasure System (DAIRCM) from Leonardo DRS.”

Joshua Niedzwiecki, vice president and general manager of electronic combat solutions at BAE Systems, said in the GA-ASI statement that “BAE Systems’ advancements in small form factor EW technologies will provide affordable multifunction capabilities for the MQ-9A, enabling it to operate in previously inaccessible airspace.”

In adherence to the 2022 National Defense Strategy’s shift to deterrence of China and Russia, AFSOC is moving to have an aircrew control multiple drones under the command’s Adaptive Airborne Enterprise (A2E) effort.

A2E “is vital to thickening the Joint Force kill web throughout the spectrum of conflict and continues to be AFSOC’s number one acquisition priority,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, the head of AFSOC, said in January.

A version of this story originally appeared in affiliate publication Defense Daily.

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