The U.S. Air Force 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron completed the first round of MQ-9A Reaper ground and flight testing with the Angry Kitten ALQ-167 Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) Pod at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada Apr. 10-28, 2023. The pod provides the MQ-9 elevated Electronic Attack (EA) capability against relevant ground and airborne threats. This capability enhances survivability for the Reaper and other friendly forces, and complicates adversary planning efforts. The test focused on proving the concept of conducting EA from the MQ-9 to provide operational planners new force application options when confronting Pacing Challenge threats.
“The goal is to expand the mission sets the MQ-9 can accomplish,” said Maj. Aaron Aguilar, 556th TES assistant director of operations. “The proliferation and persistence of MQ-9s in theater allows us to fill traditional platform capability gaps that may be present. Our goal is to augment assets that already fill this role so they can focus and prioritize efforts in areas they are best suited for.”
“Electronic Attack on the MQ-9 is a compelling capability,” said Lt. Col. Michael Chmielewski, 556th TES commander. “15 hours of persistent noise integrated with a large force package will affect an adversary, require them to take some form of scalable action to honor it, and gets at the heart of strategic deterrence.”
The Angry Kitten Pod represents the beginning of what the 556th TES hopes to achieve with the MQ-9 in the EA sphere. Through participation in future Large Force Exercises (LFEs) such as Red Flag 23-3 and integrating with the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, the squadron aims to further develop Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) against complex target sets. Earlier in April, the 556th TES also executed a Cold Integrated Combat Turn on an MQ-9 aircraft, which included simultaneous refueling and rearming of four hellfires.
Overall, the event took less than 25 minutes, a record that crushes the standard three-hour typical turn time for the MQ-9 and only added 4 minutes to the previously demonstrated rapid refuel procedures that did not include weapon reloading. The Cold Integrated Combat Turn furthers validation efforts on the MQ-9 agile combat employment model and further maximizes the MQ-9’s relevancy across the continuum of strategic competition and the phases of combat operations in all theaters that require agile operations. Following the successes in April, the 556th TES is slated to work on multiple tests during Northern Edge 2023, a joint field training exercise at various locations in and around Alaska, beginning May 4, 2023.