Successful tests of a remote takeoff and landing system for the MQ-9 Reaper drone promise to expand the weapon’s capabilities by allowing the operators to divert the aircraft to airfields lacking traditional crews and infrastructure, the US Air Force said on Thursday.
“This capability is a key enabler for MQ-9 Agile Combat Employment and, combined with the MQ-9’s next software upgrade and receipt of the portable aircraft control station, will change how it will be employed in theaters worldwide,” an Air Force press release said.
A successful two-day test of the drone’s Automatic Takeoff and Landing Capability allowed operators to fly the aircraft between bases in the Western United States without the need for specialized launch and recovery crews, the release added.
As a result, the MQ-9 can be used in foreign airfields where the drone has never flown before, according to the release.
Earlier in May this year, the 174th Attack Wing of the US Air National Guard said that the tests of possible upgrades to older models of the MQ-9 Reaper drone will attempt to allow fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft to communicate with each other.
“From May 3-14th, the pods will demonstrate their capabilities onboard a… 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 Air National Guard said in a press release.
Tests will examine three separate pods, or configurations, for the Reaper, each specializing in a different set of capabilities, the release said.
The pods are designed to help the MQ-9 play a more prominent role in battlefield command and control, including the ability to receive and pass information to and from older fourth generation and newer fifth-generation aircraft, the release added.
The tests are funded solely by the Air National Guard since the Guard only operates legacy aircraft, according to the release.