MQ-9 Reaper Drone Tests with Upgraded SATCOM Capabilities

The upgraded SATCOM enables MQ-9 to continue to modernize by integrating more advanced sensors that require increased bandwidth, and enhances the aircraft's ability to provide real-time situational awareness around the world By Joe Macey / 01 Jun 2023
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The Air National Guard-Air Force Reserve Command Test Center has partnered with the 174th Attack Wing and 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron to test an upgraded satellite communications capability of the MQ-9 Reaper during exercise Northern Edge 2023 at Eielson Air Force Base.

Northern Edge 23 is a US Indo-Pacific Command-sponsored, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces-led, multilateral, joint field training exercise at main operating bases Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson AFB.

The MQ-9 is a remotely piloted aircraft primarily used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. Air National Guard pilots, using the SATCOM upgrade, can now fly ISR missions in real-time almost anywhere around the world from remote bases in the United States.

The MQ-9’s upgraded SATCOM system uses advanced satellite technology to transmit data and communications over long distances. It is capable of flying at high altitudes for extended periods and its sensors can provide real-time intelligence on adversary positions, movements and activities. The ANG plans to deploy the upgraded MQ-9 to support ongoing operations around the world, as well as for training exercises and other missions in support of US national security objectives.

“The speed at which this modernization effort and test program has been accomplished highlights the Accelerate, Change, or Lose vision from General Brown,” said Maj. Ryan Nastase, Test Program Manager. “This SATCOM upgrade will allow pole-to-pole operations while increasing the amount of data or bandwidth the MQ-9 can transmit and receive by more than double and reducing the latency or time of transmission by a factor of 10.”

With the upgraded SATCOM capability, the MQ-9 can continue to modernize by integrating more advanced sensors that require increased bandwidth. The upgrade enhances the aircraft’s ability to provide real-time situational awareness to combatant commanders around the world.

“This upgrade is a game-changer for the MQ-9 and the Air National Guard,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Harris, Hancock Field ANG Base test pilot at Syracuse, New York. “We can better support our combatant commanders and provide critical intelligence in real-time.”

The SATCOM upgrade is one of many advancements being fielded on the MQ-9. The ANG and its partners are continually working to enhance the capabilities of these critical assets and provide combatant commanders with the best possible support.

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