General Atomics Aims to Sell Anti-Missile Pods for MQ-9 Drones to US Military Customer
Drone Warfare To Be Revolutionized
In an interview at the Dubai Air Show, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) President Dave Alexander revealed that the company plans to close a sale of anti-missile pods for its MQ-9 drones to a United States military customer next year. The move comes after a challenging year for the surveillance drone, also known as the Reaper, which has been shot down by Houthi forces and faced harassment and collisions with Russian pilots.
Alexander explained that the recent downing of the drone could have been prevented if it had been equipped with the Self-Protection Pod manufactured by GA-ASI.
"We'll be selling a couple of those later next year," Alexander said, as he was quoted in an interview with Defense One. Currently, no U.S. MQ-9s carry the pod.
In 2021, the U.S. Air Force, the primary American operator of the MQ-9, announced a reduction in its planned purchases of the drone. The decision was based on concerns that the 2000s-era drone would not survive a conflict with Russia or China.
However, Alexander emphasized that action can be taken to address these concerns. The Self-Protection Pod features a radar warning receiver that can detect surface-to-air missiles. If a missile is targeting the drone, the pod can deploy decoys to divert the missile away from its intended target.
Furthermore, Alexander suggested that arming the drone with an air-to-air missile would deter Russian pilots from engaging in hostile actions.
"I guarantee you that a Russian fighter pilot would not be messing around with us anymore if he thought we could shoot him down," Alexander said.
Currently, the Air Force has not deemed it necessary to equip MQ-9s with defensive capabilities as the U.S. has maintained control over the airspace where the drones operate. However,
Alexander believes that the nature of missions is evolving, and it is crucial to adapt accordingly:
"But the missions are changing now. I think more and more they're going to realize, 'Yeah, there's things we can do,” he said.
If the Air Force decides to purchase the anti-missile pods, it may not need one for each of its 300-plus MQ-9s. Each pod costs approximately $4 million. The deployment of these pods would enhance the drones' survivability in high-threat environments, providing a proactive defense against potential attacks.
The sale of anti-missile pods for MQ-9 drones marks a significant step in bolstering their defensive capabilities. As General Atomics moves forward with this development, it remains to be seen how it will shape the future of drone warfare and enhance the safety and effectiveness of these unmanned aerial vehicles.