The U.S. Air Force announced on Thursday that the 174th Attack Wing has partnered with multiple Department of Defense contractors and academia to lead the effort in establishing new and additional capabilities for the MQ-9 Reaper.
According to the assistant director of operations at the 174th Operations Support Squadron, capabilities include battlefield and airspace communications enhancements as well as target identification tracking and processing.
The assistant director of operations explained there are three separate pods; the Freedom Pod, Centerline Avionics Bay Pod and the REAP Pod. Each pod is manufactured by a contractor which specializes in its unique function, leveraging expertise from previous programs.
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“We are currently doing an operational assessment of new equipment,” the assistant director of operations said. When asked what will come of the aircraft, the assistant director of operations explained it will build future capabilities in additional areas of responsibility.
The pods help the MQ-9 play an increased, more prominent role in the command and control arena of the battlefield. It will be able to receive and pass information to and from older fourth generation and newer fifth-generation aircraft.
This mission is solely an Air National Guard mission funded by The National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account funds. The funds were leveraged for modernization since ANG only operates legacy aircraft.
From May 3-14th, the pods will demonstrate their capabilities onboard a 174TH ATKW MQ-9 focusing on a higher level of integration with additional air and ground based assets during Pacific Command’s premier exercise, Northern Edge, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.