First production multi-domain Reaper UAV takes to the skies
In November 2022, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) flew the first production MQ-9A Multi-Domain Operations (M2DO) variant of the USAF MQ-9A Reaper.
The upgraded version of the MQ-9A Block 5 UAV includes features for enabling integration and deployment of open mission systems and sensors that are set to expand the strategic reconnaissance capabilities of the Reaper.
Known as the MQ-9A Block 5 '-25', the aircraft offers improved power distribution and redundancy, GPS enhancements, radar altimeters, nosewheel steering and an upgraded angle of attack sensor system.
Shephard Defence Insight notes the Reaper can reach a maximum airspeed of 240kt at sea level and climb to a maximum altitude of 50,000ft. When carrying its full complement of 1,769kg of fuel, it can fly for up to 27 hours.
GA-ASI USAF Programmes VP Claudia Mowery said the company was excited to position the MQ-9A toward new missions through the additional capabilities.
Mowery added that future funding could see the M2DO-ready functionality expanded to the entire MQ-9A Reaper fleet.
The USAF and USMC will receive the improved MQ-9A Block 5 '-25' M2DO aircraft under current contracts; however, how many aircraft the services will receive with the improvements has not been disclosed.
More from Uncrewed Vehicles
The Eaglet air-launched effect can be deployed from other UAS, helicopters and ground vehicles.
As Central Asian countries have bolstered their UAV fleets, states have been keen to localise production (and in some cases cut ties with Russia) through deals with Turkey, Iran and Belarus.
The programme's next phase will see the Airbus VTOL drone operating from a French Navy frigate.
A series of flight trials for the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton high-altitude long-endurance UAS will determine the aircraft's ability to fly in icing conditions.
QinetiQ is supporting the UK Royal Navy's pursuit of UAV development.