The U.S. Air Force conducted a series of successful demonstrations in December 2023 at Cannon Air Force Base, testing new capabilities for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). This was part of the Adaptive Airborne Enterprise (A2E) development, which aims to use the MQ-9 Reaper for more than just missions of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and strike operations. The demonstrations included controlling multiple MQ-9s from a single workstation and the capability to release and control small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS). AFSOC aims to continue developing A2E-compatible platforms to enhance the MQ-9 and expand UAS capabilities in different environments.
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Discover The Future of Airborne Enterprise Innovations
The recent trials conducted by the U.S. Air Force 27th Special Operation Wing demonstrated advanced capabilities for the Remotely Piloted Aircraft community, marking a significant shift in MQ-9 Reaper operations. Evident throughout December 2023, these demonstrations are part of the development of the Adaptive Airborne Enterprise (A2E) concept, which aims to expand the uses of MQ-9 Reaper beyond intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike operations.
The first phase of A2E saw a crew simultaneously controlling three MQ-9As, paving the way for reduced manpower requirements and enhancing operational flexibility. Additionally, the second phase saw the MQ-9 releasing and controlling two Altius 600 small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), with the command eyeing the capability to direct sUASs carrying standoff sensor payloads.
With A2E aiming to support the U.S. National Defense Strategy by countering near-peer adversaries in contested or denied environments, these new capabilities are breaking ground in phases one through three. As the command looks ahead to the future, it plans to expand the capability for a single crew to fly multiple MQ-9s simultaneously and control multiple types of UASs from anywhere, including in contested environments.
AFSOC’s A2E vision is set to revolutionize the landscape of unmanned aircraft systems, integrating large and small UASs with attritable and expendable systems and modular payloads. By harnessing mesh networks and Artificial Intelligence technologies, AFSOC is set to transform the current MQ-9 enterprise into a robust UAS architecture.
As AFSOC continues to develop A2E-compatible platforms, it’s on track to acquire three MQ-9B SkyGuardian RPAs, establishing its footprint as the first U.S. customer for these advanced systems.
To maintain its competitive edge, AFSOC is working tirelessly to bring specialized airpower to current and future fights, as demonstrated in the milestone events of 2023.
Related Fun Fact:
– The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is in service with the U.S. Air Force and other military forces around the world. It’s a key player in modern air combat operations, offering unparalleled capabilities in various mission profiles.
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