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MQ-9A Reaper conducted flight with small jet drone suspended from it

WASHINGTON, (BM) – Air technology in the field of military affairs is developing with a tendentiously fast speed in modern everyday life. More recently, interesting flight tests of the MQ-9A Reaper drone were conducted in the United States. What is impressive about the tests is that a second small reconnaissance jet was attached to the attacking drone, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.

Read more: Top 5 best combat drones [UAVs] in the world

Recently, more and more companies are testing the technology for launching small reconnaissance drones from larger unmanned aerial vehicles: in this way, it is possible to increase the aerial reconnaissance zone and more effectively overcome enemy air defenses. In addition, small devices are planned to be used as signal repeaters to increase the communication coverage area.

The first flight tests of the MQ-9A drone with the Sparrowhawk drone suspended from it were recognized as successful: the device did not start during the flight, but General Atomics specialists checked the effect of the suspended drone on the aerodynamic characteristics and controllability of the attack carrier drone. Small spacecraft Sparrowhawk is equipped with a jet engine, it has a V-shaped tail unit, as well as a rotating wing.

When the drone is on the carrier, its wing is installed parallel to the fuselage, which allows to reduce aerodynamic drag in flight, as well as the effect of wing lift on the flight of the MQ-9A. After launch, the Sparrowhawk’s wing rotates 90 degrees, other details about the tests and the small drone as such are not disclosed. General Atomics recently conducted flight tests of the MQ-9 with an artificial intelligence system that can select targets automatically.

Each Reaper drone is currently operated by two people: one operator pilots the device, and the other works with its sensors and weapons. The task of detecting, recognizing and identifying targets lies with the weapons operator – this is a rather difficult and responsible job, besides, operators today have extremely long shifts due to the long duration of flights and a shortage of personnel, which has already exceeded 400 people in the US Air Force.

Read more: India intends to acquire American MQ-9 Reaper attack drones

US presented a successor to its popular MQ-9 Reaper reconnaissance UAVs

The General Atomics concern has presented on September 17 the project of the successor to its popular MQ-9 Reaper reconnaissance UAVs, which was created in response to the requirements of the US Air Force.

Seeing the little usefulness of the Reaper outside of asymmetric conflicts, the American aviation wants to find a successor within a decade. The US company responded with a completely new jet wing design, which is to stay in the air “much longer than the current UAV”.

The MQ-9A Reaper drones have been in service with the US aviation and the armed forces of many other countries for two decades, but they have evolved from the MQ-1 Predator machines and repeat their layout: a classic airframe with a push propeller and a turboshaft engine.

Such machines have proven themselves in actions against various types of fighters and paramilitary groups, however, they are not very suitable for fighting an enemy with modern air defense systems.

Therefore, evolution goes in two directions. On the one hand, the MQ-1C Gray Eagle appeared, which works with the AH-64E Aapache helicopters, on the other hand, hard-to-detect drones for long-term flights at high altitude are sought.

The US Air Force decided to look for a modern reconnaissance and impact machine by writing an offer inquiry for the successor of the MQ-9A Reaper. The General Atomics proposal is to be a machine that can stay in the air for much longer than the 27 hours that the Reaper achieves, or even 72 hours, during which the Gray Eagle Extended Range can remain at the average altitude. At the same time, the machine is to be difficult to detect and have great autonomy, carrying out most of the tasks independently.

“Our emphasis on automation and autonomy capabilities comes from the understanding that the increased speed and intensity of future hostilities requires an equally flexible and intelligent set of systems – not only to enable minimized operations, but also to reduce the burden on the tactical data exchange network in disputed communication environments. Our next-generation drone will transform the battlefield of the future” said David Alexander, President of General Atomics.

Read more: Belgium and UK will cooperate in the use of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian UAVs

The presented visualization shows another unmanned aerial vehicle in a flying wing system, with a jet engine inlet hidden on the upper surface and slotted engine outlets to lower the thermal signature. The armament will be hidden inside the fuselage, and the high aerodynamic excellence is to ensure spectacular flight durability.

Time will show how much the company will manage to achieve the announced results, based on the airframe design as well as on software and algorithms increasing its autonomy and giving the ability to solve problems without human involvement. For the US Air Force, which has been struggling with an insufficient number of unmanned aerial vehicles for years, this may even be a more important issue.

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