General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) completed the first Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) High Frequency (HF) Command and Control (C2) demonstration for an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). The HF C2 capability does not require a Satellite Communications (SATCOM) link and is capable of providing BLOS connectivity up to 8,000 miles, depending on transmit power and link geometry. For the demo, GA-ASI integrated the U.S. Government’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) autonomy software into the Open Operational Flight Profile (OFP) of an MQ-9A Block 5 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and flew the MQ-9 using improved diagonal tails with conformal HF antennas incorporated into the leading edges.
The demonstration was flown out of Laguna Army Air Field/Yuma Proving Grounds on Dec. 16, 2020. The General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 was commanded from Austin, Texas approximately 1,000 miles away over an HF C2 link. This capability enables an operator to task the MQ-9 without needing SATCOM, providing a means to operate in SATCOM-denied, contested environments. GA-ASI’s MQ-9 housed a FlexRadio Systems’ FLEX-6600 HF software-defined radio and associated hardware to translate and execute an autonomous mission plan. GA-ASI created a specialized HF software adapter to manage the unique latency and throughput constraints of the HF waveform to demonstrate BLOS command and control of the MQ-9A Block 5 Remotely Piloted Aircraft.
MQ-9A was designated “Reaper” by the U.S. and Royal Air Force, but has become the widely used name for any Predator B equipped with weapons. Featuring unmatched operational flexibility, MQ-9A has an endurance of over 27 hours, speeds of 240 KTAS, can operate up to 50,000 feet, and has a 3,850 pound (1746 kilogram) payload capacity that includes 3,000 pounds (1361 kilograms) of external stores. The aircraft carries 500% more payload and has nine times the horsepower. It provides a long-endurance, persistent surveillance/strike capability for the war fighter.MQ-9A is capable of carrying: Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR), Lynx® Multi-mode Radar, maritime surveillance radar, Electronic Support Measures (ESM), laser designators, and various weapons and payload packages.
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.