General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has completed the maiden flight test of the MQ-9A Multi-Domain Operations (M2DO)-ready variant being developed for the US Air Force (USAF).

The first test was carried out by the company on 10 November 2022.

The M2DO is an upgraded mission-ready version of the USAF’s existing GA-ASI-developed MQ-9A Reaper Block 5 remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS).

The new aircraft variant, which is also referred to as ‘-25’, is equipped with several new features that will allow the USAF to perform future integration and fielding of Open Mission Systems (OMS) and sensors.

In comparison to the old MQ-9A, the latest variant of RPAS offers enhanced power distribution and redundancy, improved radar altimeters, nose wheel steering better Global Positioning System (GPS) capability, as well as angle of attack (AoA) sensor system enhancements.

The new set of features is also expected to enhance the strategic reconnaissance capabilities of the service’s MQ-9A Reaper aircraft.

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GA-ASI USAF Programmes vice-president Claudia Mowery said: “We’re excited to position the MQ-9A enterprise for new missions through these capabilities.

“Future funding could potentially expand these capabilities to the entire MQ-9A fleet.”

GA-ASI is under contract to provide the new ‘-25’ M2DO-ready aircraft variant for the USAF and for the US Marine Corps (USMC).

The company, however, has not disclosed the details on the total number of M2DO-ready RPAS that are being upgraded for the two services.

The initial announcement for the MQ-9A fleet upgrade was released by the USAF in 2021. The fleet modernisation programme aims to boost Reaper’s capabilities and effectiveness against various near-peer threats.