The US Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC) has recently tested the upgraded satellite communications (SATCOM) capabilities of MQ-9 Reaper aircraft.

The test was conducted as part of a recently held multilateral exercise Northern Edge 2023 at the Eielson Air Force Base (AFB) in Alaska.

Sponsored by US Indo-Pacific Command, this joint field training exercise was led by Pacific Air Forces.

The assessment of MQ-9’s capabilities was held in collaboration with the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron and 174th Attack Wing.

The US Air Force’s (USAF) MQ-9 is a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS), which is mainly deployed for carrying out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

With the new SATCOM upgrade, the Air National Guard (ANG) pilots can now perform all the ISR missions in real-time from anywhere across the globe, directly from their remote bases in the US.

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The upgraded SATCOM capabilities feature advanced satellite technology that helps in transmitting data and communications over long distances.

Furthermore, the technology will enable the RPAS to fly at high altitudes for extended period, while navigating the activities, positions and movements of adversary in real-time.

Test Programme manager major Ryan Nastase said: “The speed at which this modernisation effort and test programme has been accomplished highlights the Accelerate, Change, or Lose vision from US Air Force general CQ Brown Jr.”

The ANG is planning to deploy this upgraded MQ-9 aircraft for various operations, training exercises and other missions worldwide to fulfil the US national security objectives.

Hancock Field ANG Base test pilot lieutenant colonel Matthew Harris said: “This upgrade is a game-changer for the MQ-9 and the ANG.

“We can better support our combatant commanders and provide critical intelligence in real-time.”