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    MQ-9 Reaper Drones Enhanced for Modern Battlefield Resilience

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    The modern battlefield is transforming, and the MQ-9 Reaper® drone is evolving with it.

    In a significant upgrade, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) is enhancing the MQ-9A Reaper’s capabilities to ensure its resilience against the rapidly changing threats faced by U.S. and allied special operations forces.

    This development comes at a crucial time as the Reaper’s adaptability and functionality are essential for contemporary military operations.

    General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., a renowned developer of remotely piloted aircraft, has embarked on a mission to further secure part of the Air Force’s fleet of MQ-9A Reapers.

    GA-ASI revealed on May 8, 2024, its collaboration with Shift5 to integrate the latter’s onboard cyber anomaly detection and predictive maintenance features.

    The necessity for these enhancements is underscored by recent events. Last month’s shooting down of a Reaper by the Houthis added to the tally of remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) lost to enemy fire in just a year.

    While invaluable in low-threat environments, the MQ-9’s vulnerability to even rudimentary anti-air defenses has become apparent.

    In response to these threats, David Alexander, president of GA-ASI, highlighted the firm’s commitment: “The next logical and immediate extension of our work in enabling the U.S. Air Force is empowering AFSOC and SOCOM with additional resiliency and survivability of the MQ-9A on the battlefield.”

    He praised Shift5 as a new class of dual-use defense tech business that operates with agility and scale to make a significant impact for the warfighter.

    Josh Lospinoso, CEO and co-founder of Shift5, emphasized the importance of real-time data in the evolving battlefield landscape, which is increasingly incorporating remotely piloted, autonomous, and unmanned systems.

    He highlighted the partnership GA-ASI as a key strategy for AFSOC and SOCOM to access vital operational and cybersecurity insights efficiently, democratize data access, and uphold decision-making superiority.

    GA-ASI disclosed on May 9 that it is collaborating with USSOCOM and AFSOC to advance the development of a novel podded Airborne Battlespace Awareness and Defense (ABAD) capability.

    The connection between this new capability and the Self-Protection Pod (SPP) unveiled by the company in 2021 remains undisclosed.

    The ABAD pod is specifically tailored for integration into the AFSOC MQ-9A Block 5 Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance Tactical (MALET) Extended Range RPAs, offering enhanced detection and defense capabilities against Radio Frequency (RF) and Infrared (IR) threats.

    GA-ASI is currently engaged in an engineering and testing initiative aimed at refining the ABAD pod as a deployable payload for operation on the MQ-9A platform by 2025.

    Relevant articles:
    9A Reaper® more resilient against cyber threats & anti, Breaking Defense
    MQ-9 Reaper Gets New Capabilities Against Cyber And Anti-Aircraft Threats, The Aviationist
    National Guard eyes UAS, air defense among 2024 priorities, DefenseScoop

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