As part of the ongoing U.S. Air Force contract for MQ-9A Reaper modernization, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) demonstrated three expanded Automatic Takeoff and Landing Capability (ATLC) enhancements that provide the MQ-9A with a dramatic increase in operational flexibility. The second enhancement expands the cross-wind limits of the MQ-9A. The third increases the maximum landing weight for normal and emergency landings. One enhancement enables the MQ-9A to land at an alternate or “divert” airfield in which no Ground Control Station (GCS) is present, and under satellite communication (SATCOM) control.
“This achievement will enable operational MQ-9A’s 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. 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.”
Once uploaded to the MQ-9A’s mission profile, the MQ-9A aircrew enables the ATLC system, which allows the aircraft to automatically maneuver itself into a landing pattern and make the automatic landing. 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 Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) sensor to obtain coordinates for automatic landing.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), an affiliate of General Atomics, is a leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems, including the Predator® RPA series and the Lynx® Multi-mode Radar. With more than six million flight hours, GA-ASI provides long-endurance, mission-capable aircraft with integrated sensor and data link systems required to deliver persistent flight that enables situational awareness and rapid strike. The company also produces a variety of ground control stations and sensor control/image analysis software, offers pilot training and support services, and develops meta-material antennas.