Raise the bar for new Reaper, colonel says

New Reaper model must be able to face emerging threats such as cyber warfare and surface-to-air missiles better than the current MQ-9 drone, says Col. James Gear, director of the Air Force's Remotely Piloted Aircraft Task Force.

Col. James Gear, director of the Air Force's Remotely Piloted Aircraft Task Force, is raising the bar for the next-in-class Reaper drone while calling out the flaws of today’s MQ-9.

The current Reaper drones have served the country well over Iraq and Afghanistan, but the next-generation replacement for the MQ-9 must be able to tackle emerging threats, writes Dave Majumdar of Defense News.

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These threats include cyber warfare, enemy aircraft and surface-to-air missiles, the publication reports.

Gear made the comments on Feb. 2 during the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s Unmanned Systems Program Review 2011 held in Washington, D.C .

“In tomorrow’s conflict, or going even further to the right to an anti-access environment, the MQ-9 [Reaper] and MQ-1 [Predator] are not well suited for that,” Gear told Defense News. “So there is certainly a requirement and need for an aircraft [that] operates in these three different threats,” he added.

Gear suggested that the new model must be resilient to icy weather conditions.

Secure, encrypted, jam-proof data links are necessities in the new model, as well as a modular, easily upgradable aircraft, he said.

The design should be flexible enough to accommodate new upgrade “requirements [that are not] fully defined or funded” at the present moment, the colonel said.

The Reaper is a medium-to-high altitude, long endurance, hunter-kill system and is capable of carrying a combination of Hellfire missiles, laser-guided bombs and smart bombs, according to Defense Systems.