The US Air Force’s (USAF) Holloman Air Force Base (AFB) in New Mexico, US, is replacing its Block 1 MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) and Block 15 Ground Control Station (GCS) with Block 5 MQ-9 Reaper and the Block 30 GCS respectively.
The introduction of the Block 5 and Block 30 technology onto the battlefield calls for an update to the airforce’s RPA training programme, the USAF stated.
The USAF’s 6th Attack Squadron commander lieutenant colonel Alfred Rosales said: “The goal is to make the transition not so shocking when you go to a unit with these technologies.
“We do not want this transition to be a big jump from a schoolhouse like this to the Combat Air Forces.”
The Block 5 MQ-9 Reaper and Block 30 GCS provide advanced software and camera capabilities, as well as an advanced communications system and streamlined payload capabilities to the airforce.
The Block 30 GCS features redesigned displays, flight controls and new software that will drastically increase operations, while the Block 5 MQ-9’s improved electrical and communications systems render better software and hardware upgrades for future operations. This will provide dominant persistent attack and reconnaissance to joint force commanders.
6th ATKS MQ-9 pilot major Jay said: “The Block 5 is different on the sensor side because they now have high-definition video.
“On the pilot’s side, the aircraft now has a generator and alternator that charges the batteries in-flight, which we previously did not have.”
Rosales added: “The Block 30 GCS has been made better for the crew, improving resource management and how we communicate with each other.
“We even upgraded the positions of where our radio antennas are, they are now on the wings as opposed to the fuselage.”
In June, the USAF flew the Block 5 variant of MQ-9 Reaper for the first time, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Image: Holloman began flying the new Block 5 and Block 30 technology to ease the transition that student pilots and sensor operators will experience when joining a combat unit. Photo: courtesy of the USAF.