The bright and unexplored future of USAF unmanned aircraft

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The Air Force is exploring various interesting options when it comes to finding and deploying a replacement for its MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft and plans to take its time to develop a plan for the future.

Military service runs an interesting program called “MQ-Next” that is not immersed in a world of technological exploration and the “realm of the possible” to determine what future drones used to perform Reaper-type missions will look like. These unmanned planes can most likely be smaller, stealthier, deadlier, and even operate in swarms in masked areas with surveillance. As the Air Force continues this developmental trajectory, the service takes great comfort in the fact that its ongoing innovations are gaining additional support, traction and funding through the uptime they work with. MQ-Next does not need to be operational until 2031, which means the service can take the time needed to identify and develop the best possible next-generation drones for the 2030s and beyond.

“We have three hundred platforms [MQ-9 Reapers] to get into the mid-2030s, so we have time to do it smart and look at different systems, ”said Lt. Gen. David Nahom, Air Force deputy chief of staff for plans and programs, at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace. Studies in an interview.

One of the fundamental areas that development is focusing on is the focus on networking, i.e. unmanned team, cross-platform drone connectivity, and types of unmanned synergies or ” drone to drone, ”Nahom said.

Certainly, advancements in networking allow the exchange of low latency data between manned and unmanned aircraft, allowing the Air Force to deploy smaller and larger drones. resilient, capable of exchanging surveillance images and targeting data with each other in real time. This would reduce the need to increase risk by sending larger, potentially more vulnerable, less stealth platforms to war. Swarms of drones could cover an area and prove to be formidable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets by testing enemy air defenses and attacking the perimeter of enemy forces without putting pilots and manned aircraft in line. danger of imminent attack.

“There are many ways to use unmanned systems in very different ways than in the past,” Nahom explained. “We can have unmanned adversary airs and platforms tasked with protecting high-value systems. ”

This type of test and evaluation of research development, innovation and technological exploration is made possible by the continued success and functionality of the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft, which has been improved over the years. . Unlike its early days, today’s MQ-9 Reaper has mission-extended fuel tanks, a universal weapon interface allowing for a larger arsenal of attack weapons, data processing based on the artificial intelligence, software upgrades and sensor enhancements. In addition, the Air Force has adjusted the tactics of its MQ-9 Reaper aircraft, for example by altering its flight path so that it is less predictable for American adversaries. It can now fly at higher altitudes, a capability made possible by substantial improvements in the range and fidelity of the MQ-9 Reaper’s sensors. When it comes to the Air Force’s goal of providing a persistent and survivable ISR, the MQ-9 Reaper has answered the call.

“We have time to look at all of these possibilities because before the MQ-9s drop,” Nahom said.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National interest. Osborn previously served in the Pentagon as a highly trained expert in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborn also worked as an on-air presenter and military specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters.


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