Electronic Weapons: SEAD For UAVs

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August 17, 2016: The U.S. Air Force has developed a 15 day training course for MQ-1 (Predator) and MQ-9 (Reaper) UAV operators (pilots) to qualify them as “Electronic Combat Officers.” This means that the air force is finally equipping its larger MQ-1 and MQ-9 for EW (electronic warfare) missions. These two UAVs are large enough to carry some of the electronic sensors and jammers regularly used in missions seeking electronic information (ELINT) or for combat (SEAD). U.S. Navy and Air Force commanders have long wanted to turn over SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) missions to UAVs. SEAD is the most dangerous mission for combat pilots. But until a few years ago, all these UAV projects had either been cancelled, or were headed in that direction. That appears to be changing.

The Reaper is large enough, in theory, to also carry a pair of the latest anti-radar missiles. These are the AARGM which weighs 361 kg (794 pounds) and can detect and attack targets more than 150 kilometers away while travelling at a speed of 2,450 kilometers per hour. It is more likely that the MQ-9 and MQ-1 would carry lighter missiles that can act as decoys to divert the attention of enemy radars.

 


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