General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA‑ASI) has conducted the first flight test of the Rosetta Echo Advanced Payloads (REAP) pod on an MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). The test was carried out in conjunction with the Air National Guard (ANG), the Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC) and Ultra Electronics.
The first flight test, known as REAP-1, was held Aug. 3 and was based out of Syracuse, N.Y. The test demonstrated a communications relay network providing seamless connectivity between air and ground participants in the demonstration area. Specific waveforms supported by the REAP pod include Link 16, UHF/VHF radio and P25 public safety, as well as mobile ad hoc networks (MANET).
“GA-ASI is really excited to showcase the communication capabilities of the REAP pod, which provides the backbone for warfighters to collaborate and share critical battlefield situational awareness,” said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. “Our MQ-9, with its industry-leading persistent endurance, is the ideal platform for connecting sensors to shooters and realizing USAF’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) vision.”
According to the ANG/AATC, a REAP-equipped MQ-9 relayed video received from a Coyote small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) to a ground node at distances over 110 miles. This was done while simultaneously bridging voice communications over the MANET at extended distances.
“REAP far exceeded our expectations for a first flight and initial operational assessment,” said Maj. Curt Wilson, National Guard Bureau (NGB) A5 Branch Chief for Special Mission Aircraft. “The REAP pod is the first step in a number of innovations that the NGB, Ultra and GA-ASI have pioneered to demonstrate near-term and affordable Joint All-Domain Command & Control (JADC2) capabilities on the MQ-9.”
The ANG and AATC will schedule another flight test in late 2020 with the REAP pod installed on the MQ-9. A REAP-2 pod, due for completion in mid-2021, encompasses all of the REAP-1 capability plus 4G/LTE, the addition of which will add disaster relief operations as a capability to its existing military waveform relay and bridging capability.
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