Air Force considers commercial UAVs as potential replacements for venerable MQ-9 Reaper hunter-killer drone

March 23, 2020
For low-end missions, Air Force sees promise in new long-loiter drones developed for agriculture, communications, and the oil and gas sector.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Air Force is looking for a replacement to the stalwart MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and intends to explore options ranging from commercial drones built by emerging tech firms to high-end unmanned aircraft, the service’s top acquisition official said earlier this month. Defense News reports. Continue reading original article

The Military & Aerospace Electronics take:

23 March 2020 -- Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics, says the service is working on a study to lay out a path for replacing the MQ-9 Reaper, made by General Atomics.

"The Reaper has been a great platform for us. Four million flight hours, just undeniable overmatch in a low-end uncontested fight, and it is certainly saving lives,” Roper told lawmakers at a House Armed Services Committee hearing. “But as we look to the high end fight, we just can't take them into the battlefield. They are easily shot down.”

There likely won’t be a single, one-size fits all solution for replacing the MQ-9, Roper said. The Air Force may need drones that “are more high-end, military-unique” systems, and “they’ll likely be expensive,” he acknowledged. There may also be room for unmanned attritable aircraft, which are reusable but are cheap enough that they can be shot down in battle without incurring massive financial losses.

Related: Air Force asks General Atomics to upgrade MQ-9 Reaper UAVs with new data multiplexers and control

Related: Air Force orders unmanned aircraft flight simulation gear for practice and mission rehearsal

Related: Air Force asks General Atomics to build year's worth of MQ-9 Reaper unmanned combat drones

John Keller, chief editor
Military & Aerospace Electronics

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