MQ-9 Upgrades Capability

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Matthew Harris
  • 174th Attack Wing

The New York Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing’s MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft have been upgraded with a new satellite communications systems which allows the transmission of higher-quality voice, data, and video transmissions, according to Lt. Col. Matthew Harris, a test pilot assigned to the 174th Attack Wing.

"This upgrade is a game-changer for the MQ-9 and the Air National Guard," Harris said. "With this enhanced capability, we can better support our combatant commanders and provide critical intelligence in real-time."

The 174th Attack Wing, based at Hancock Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, New York, flies the MQ-9 in support of U.S. operations around the world from a command center at the air base on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.

The upgrade of the Reaper’s communications system was developed by the Air National Guard-Air Force Reserve Command Test Center at Tucson Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona.

The program was implemented quickly in line with the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown's “Accelerate, Change, or Lose” vision for the Air Force, explained Major Ryan Nastase, the test program manager.

The Air Force, Brown says, must accept rapid change in order to deal with future threats.

The modernization of the MQ-9 increases its resiliency and significantly enhances the Reaper's ability to provide real-time situational awareness to combatant commanders around the world, Nastase explained.

The MQ-9 is a critical asset for the Air National Guard and the U.S. military, according to Harris.

"It can fly at high altitudes for extended periods, and its sensors can provide real-time intelligence on adversary positions, movements, and activities," he said.

The Air National Guard plans to deploy the upgraded MQ-9 to support ongoing operations around the world. The MQ-9 will also be used for training exercises and other missions in support of U.S. national security objectives, according to Harris.

The MQ-9's upgraded satellite communications system is just one of many advancements being fielded on the Reaper to ensure the aircraft is mission capable, he said.

The Air National Guard and its partners are continually working to enhance the capabilities of these critical assets and provide combatant commanders with the best possible support, Harris added.