Under an ongoing USAF contract for MQ-9A REAPER modernization, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has demonstrated three expanded Automatic Take-off and Landing Capability (ATLC) enhancements that offer a dramatic increase in operational flexibility, the company announced on 25 June.
One enhancement enables the MQ-9A to land at an alternate or ‘divert’ airfield, at which no ground control station (GCS) is present, and under SATCOM control. The second enhancement expands the cross-wind limits of the MQ-9A, while the third increases the maximum landing weight for normal and emergency landings.
“This achievement will enable operational MQ-9As to land at alternate airfields, on their own, in case of inclement weather, changing mission requirements, or damaged runways,” said GA-ASI President David R Alexander. “These upgrades will improve mission-effectiveness tremendously.”
With the ‘divert landing’ enhancement, the remote pilot can enter the new landing area coordinates to automatically land at the selected location, or the pilot can overfly and self-survey the divert airfield’s runway using the MQ-9A’s multispectral EO/IR sensor to obtain coordinates for automatic landing. Once uploaded to the aircraft’s mission profile, the MQ-9A aircrew enables the ATLC system, which allows the aircraft to automatically manoeuvre itself into a landing pattern and make the automatic landing.
“All three enhancements provide MQ-9A aircrews with increased runway options, as well as expanded weather tolerances that greatly improve mission flexibility, operational availability and time on station. It will also lead to a substantial reduction in aircrew,” added Alexander.