General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Contains threads on Royal Air Force equipment of the past, present and future.
Ron5
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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by Ron5 »

I thought originally there was talk of 20 ?

jonas
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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by jonas »

Ron5 wrote:I thought originally there was talk of 20 ?
Yes there was talk of twenty but it was soon cut to 16.

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by Lord Jim »

The question in my mind is are we buying the Protector to fight the last war rather then looking forward to how it can be used in the future. It was obviously going to be able to carry the same weapon systems as teh Reaper it is replacing, but things have moved on and additional capabilities have been test of close relative of the Protector including Maritime surveillance for example.

The UAV will have great utility in supporting the new Ranger Regiment in its new role, though its survivability in a conflict where GBADs are present beyond old soviet era MANPADS. Does protector for example have a self defence countermeasures capability, such as Radar and IR Warning Receivers and/or flares an d chaff dispensers. It does, due the materials it is made from have a relatively low RCS, but will that and the altitude it operates at be enough.

Surely the MoD needs to take these things into account as well as expanding it roles beyond those carried out by its predecessor?

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by SW1 »

https://www.aerosociety.com/news/uavs-vs-subs/

Twenty-five years on, the sea battle is suddenly a great deal more complicated and profoundly radical with sophisticated unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV), unmanned surface vehicles (USV) and unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) joining the brawl in collaborating swarms, some with embedded artificial intelligence (AI), operating as surveillance, stooges/decoys, surface/sub-surface threats and strike assets. ASW doctrine is having to be rapidly revised to take account of these numerous advances in the battlespace. Modern underwater threats can strike from longer ranges and broader situational awareness is needed. The problem of sanitising areas of the sea has become a wicked one. Launching helicopters for ASW missions is expensive; the operation costs are high, combining fuel, manpower and maintenance and the helicopter may have other competing missions. Navies are therefore turning towards machines that can do the dirty job of spending hours loitering, surveying and listening for unusual activity and threats. This article examines some of the potential ‘newbies’ into this space which might offer the opportunity to give the ‘cat’ perfect vision.

GA-ASI has also developed the SeaGuardian (maritime role) derivative of the MQ-9B with a range of 6,000nm and impressive endurance (non-role specific, the SkyGuardian is said to be capable of 40+ hrs). It has nine hard-points for a sensor or weapon payload of up to 2,100kg. Readers may recall that GA-ASI flew a prototype of the MQ-9B from North Dakota to Fairford in July 2018. This same UAS is being brought to the UK in the SeaGuardian role for trials in mid-August. In addition to the MQ-9B usual EO/IR and Lynx high resolution synthetic aperture radar, it will be fitted with a 360º maritime radar, Leonardo SAGE ESM, a sonobuoy control and monitoring system, AIS, Detect and Avoid (DAA) and Link 16. While not arriving in the UK with GS-ASI’s Sonobuoy Dispenser System (SDS), it would be capable of carrying this in the future, run by a dedicated sonobuoy management and control system.

Based at RAF Waddington initially and then RAF Lossiemouth for Exercise Joint Warrior, GA-ASI is planning a programme of demos for various stakeholders. In particular, valuable engagement is anticipated with the CAA on airspace integration utilising DAA.

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by Lord Jim »

I think I mentioned this on another thread but it is good to see a second post in the right thread.

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by SW1 »




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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by SW1 »

https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news ... ean-trials

The SkyGuardian forms the basis of a UK-specific variant, the Protector RG.Mk 1, and is designed to meet or exceed all aviation certification standards. The Royal Air Force’s aircraft will have significantly greater endurance than the MQ-9A Reaper, and will be able to conduct missions of up to 40 hours. UK weapons will be integrated, and the type has seven weapons stations allowing it to carry a total of 21 Brimstone missiles.

During its UK deployment, the aircraft was operated in SeaGuardian configuration, carrying a belly-mounted 360-degree maritime search radar, allowing it to demonstrate the type’s formidable maritime surveillance capabilities.


The planned RAF Protector force consists of two operational squadrons, and Waddington will also host an international training facility on a new campus. This will enable crews from the RAF and international partners to conduct a significant amount of their training in a secure environment. This will be linked with the Defence Collective Training environment under the UK Gladiator program. The force will comprise 16 air vehicles, seven ground control stations, five synthetic training systems, and some 501 aircrew, engineers, analysts and support trades.

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by Lord Jim »

I wonder if the number of Protectors might return to the original one if the platforms takes on the Maritime role with a third Squadron being Formed and deployed up north with the Poseidons?

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by SW1 »

https://www.ga-asi.com/ga-asi-completes ... time-demos

The flights showcased the many operational capabilities of the MQ-9B, including the platform’s advanced maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Detect and Avoid System (DAAS), industry-leading endurance and interoperability with NATO partners. During Joint Warrior, a demonstration of Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) took place using the SeaGuardian and an RAF P-8, showing SeaGuardian’s ability to compliment and support Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) tasking, which included tracking, monitoring and reporting of sonobuoys.

The demonstrations were initially based out of RAF Waddington before moving to RAF Lossiemouth to support Joint Warrior. While based at RAF Waddington, one flight saw SeaGuardian fly to Leeuwarden Air Base, taking the RPA into Netherlands airspace and proving a seamless transition between national air traffic regions, while testing airspace operational procedures. This multi-day demonstration, which took place Sept. 1-2, displayed SeaGuardian's maritime surveillance capabilities in support of international allies. The Royal Netherlands Air Force has ordered four MQ-9A RPA and the first is expected to be delivered to Leeuwarden later this year. SeaGuardian returned to RAF Waddington at the conclusion of the event.

The flights culminated with the RPA’s participation in the UK-led Joint Warrior exercise, which showcased how the MQ-9B’s maritime capabilities can be integrated with other air, maritime and land assets. An international audience observed the RPA’s maritime capability which includes a multi-mode surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, Electronic Support Measures (ESM) along with the standard High-Definition, Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. As a result of a visit from leadership from the UK Border Force during which they observed the capabilities of the system, a Military Aid to Civil Authorities (MACA) demonstration flight was performed over the English Channel.

In support of the European Maritime Demonstrations, GA-ASI partnered with SES, the leading provider of global satellite communications (SATCOM) services operating the world’s only multi-orbit constellation of satellites in Geostationary Orbit (GEO) and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), and offering a unique combination of global coverage and high performance. For the demos, GA-ASI leveraged SES’s GEO connectivity in Ku-band as well as X-band reachback provided via the GovSat-1 satellite. GovSat-1, which is exclusively dedicated for government use and offers secure multi-mission capabilities, is operated as a public-private joint venture between the Government of Luxembourg and SES. The SATCOM service enabled the MQ-9 to operate securely with a high-capacity datalink, allowing real-time transmission of sensor data from the aircraft and operations center using a SATCOM link, including with data rates up to 70 Mbps in secure reachback.

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by Ron5 »

SW1 wrote:70 Mbps
That's not very high (my internet connection is 200+) so I doubt if it can do the monitoring sonar buoys etc out of range of the P-8's. I assume they have the requisite satellite terminals.

And probably not high enough for raw radar returns or live video either.

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by donald_of_tokyo »

Ron5 wrote:
SW1 wrote:70 Mbps
That's not very high (my internet connection is 200+) so I doubt if it can do the monitoring sonar buoys etc out of range of the P-8's. I assume they have the requisite satellite terminals.

And probably not high enough for raw radar returns or live video either.
For sonobuoys, how wide a band width is needed? A quick googling tells us (https://asa.scitation.org/doi/10.1121/1.5114810) 48 kHz ADC sampling. With 12-bit ADC, this can be 0.6Mbps data rate. 48 kHz sampling means its Nyquist frequency being 24 kHz, looks not bad for multi-static active passive "listening" mode. In this case, 70Mbps will enable sending full-band data of 12 Sonobuoys. For radar signals, I understand the pre-processing is taking place onboard the UAVs, so the data rate is not so large. Optical/IR image movie may need wide-band, but Link-16 is ~1Mbps max, and some image can be transferred. As such, 70Mbps looks like a good starter. As we all know, its bandwidth will rapidly improve in coming decades, while low/mid-frequency ASW do not need high frequency information.

Overall. I think Sea Guardian with Sonobuoy dispenser and tranceducer is a promising approach. It is not to replace P-8, but supplement the large-area scan, while the P-8 might been hunting another suspicious signal?

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by Ron5 »

donald_of_tokyo wrote:
Ron5 wrote:
SW1 wrote:70 Mbps
That's not very high (my internet connection is 200+) so I doubt if it can do the monitoring sonar buoys etc out of range of the P-8's. I assume they have the requisite satellite terminals.

And probably not high enough for raw radar returns or live video either.
For sonobuoys, how wide a band width is needed? A quick googling tells us (https://asa.scitation.org/doi/10.1121/1.5114810) 48 kHz ADC sampling. With 12-bit ADC, this can be 0.6Mbps data rate. 48 kHz sampling means its Nyquist frequency being 24 kHz, looks not bad for multi-static active passive "listening" mode. In this case, 70Mbps will enable sending full-band data of 12 Sonobuoys. For radar signals, I understand the pre-processing is taking place onboard the UAVs, so the data rate is not so large. Optical/IR image movie may need wide-band, but Link-16 is ~1Mbps max, and some image can be transferred. As such, 70Mbps looks like a good starter. As we all know, its bandwidth will rapidly improve in coming decades, while low/mid-frequency ASW do not need high frequency information.

Overall. I think Sea Guardian with Sonobuoy dispenser and tranceducer is a promising approach. It is not to replace P-8, but supplement the large-area scan, while the P-8 might been hunting another suspicious signal?
I'm not going to pretend to understand all that but there will be competition for bandwidth and it won't always be working at full speed. So color me very doubtful a theoretical 70 mbps will be able to keep up. Not heard link 16 mentioned in conjunction with this either :(

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by Lord Jim »

If the Sea Guardian is able to work with the P-8, dropping buoys and transmitting their data to the P-8 it would be of great benefit to the RAF if some or all of its Guardians were so modified. Whether is can be done though is still to be truly proven I believe.

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by donald_of_tokyo »

Ron5 wrote:
donald_of_tokyo wrote: For sonobuoys, how wide a band width is needed? A quick googling tells us (https://asa.scitation.org/doi/10.1121/1.5114810) 48 kHz ADC sampling. With 12-bit ADC, this can be 0.6Mbps data rate. 48 kHz sampling means its Nyquist frequency being 24 kHz, looks not bad for multi-static active passive "listening" mode. In this case, 70Mbps will enable sending full-band data of 12 Sonobuoys. For radar signals, I understand the pre-processing is taking place onboard the UAVs, so the data rate is not so large. Optical/IR image movie may need wide-band, but Link-16 is ~1Mbps max, and some image can be transferred. As such, 70Mbps looks like a good starter. As we all know, its bandwidth will rapidly improve in coming decades, while low/mid-frequency ASW do not need high frequency information.

Overall. I think Sea Guardian with Sonobuoy dispenser and tranceducer is a promising approach. It is not to replace P-8, but supplement the large-area scan, while the P-8 might been hunting another suspicious signal?
I'm not going to pretend to understand all that but there will be competition for bandwidth and it won't always be working at full speed. So color me very doubtful a theoretical 70 mbps will be able to keep up. Not heard link 16 mentioned in conjunction with this either :(
Not so far away with my analysis.

1: Sonobuoy tanceducer was there from LAMPS system, sending the sonobuoy signal to the mother vessel. Nothing new. Compared to those days, 70Mbps is a few orders of magnitude better.
2: Sound signal is NOT so high rate, because now ASW are using lower frequency, which needs better noise reduction (good analog chain, good electric-noise filtering circuits, good DCDC converters etc), but not high rate of data transfer.
3: I agree 70Mbps is not "very wide", but not "too narrow" either. Anyway, the UAV is NOT designed to deliver 50-100 of sonobuoys (P-8 does). It is light weight and designed to provide "support" to ASW, not being the main asset like P-8. To handle 5-10 sonobuoys, the 70Mbps bandwidth may be ok. This is what I meant.

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by SW1 »

Brigades deploying into Afghanistan used to go with 6 mbps of bandwidth…. A lot of the raw processing is done onboard sea guardian before being transmitted.

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by Ron5 »

SW1 wrote:Brigades deploying into Afghanistan used to go with 6 mbps of bandwidth….
Probably why they didn't catch any submarines.
SW1 wrote:..A lot of the raw processing is done onboard sea guardian before being transmitted.
Always the stock answer. .. AI to the rescue.

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by Timmymagic »

RAF have taken delivery of a new MQ-9 Reaper.

This will bring the RAF Reaper fleet back up to 10, following the retirement of the earliest example in 2019 (which was delivered in 2007)

This also raises questions about the Reapers fleet post Protector delivery...it might end up being retained in service...see the below twitter thread for more details:



https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news ... reaper-uav

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by Ron5 »

Seems odd. Why not buy one more of the new type?

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by Timmymagic »

Ron5 wrote:Seems odd. Why not buy one more of the new type?
Think they needed it now to maintain 2 orbits (hence the name of the project, SOLAR, Second Operating Location Alternate Reaper). You can get another MQ-9 off a hot production line, or wait for 5 years for another Protector to arrive.

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by dmereifield »

Is there not enough life left in at least some of the Reapers to retain them and operate in addition to Protector?

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by ArmChairCivvy »

Not clear to me which two of these 3 apply as for the locations:
Cyprus?
Vegas (as for those flying them)?
The garage (one in two disassembled into crates)?

Of course, what counts is where circuits can be maintained
Ever-lasting truths: Multi-year budgets/ planning by necessity have to address the painful questions; more often than not the Either-Or prevails over Both-And.
If everyone is thinking the same, then someone is not thinking (attributed to Patton)

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by Timmymagic »

dmereifield wrote:Is there not enough life left in at least some of the Reapers to retain them and operate in addition to Protector?
There probably will be. Its worth noting that we've retired 1 Reaper as out of flying hours, this was the first one delivered in 2007, retired in 2019. So 12 year service life. But....that one was worked incredibly hard over Afghanistan, particularly after the 2nd Reaper crashed. Yes the fleet is still doing hours over Syria and Iraq, and some of the earlier ones might be due replacement by the time Protector arrives, but it does appear that some will have significant airframe life yet. If there is enough to maintain an orbit overseas it would make sense to retain them, at least until more Protector arrive or we run out of parts/airframe life.

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by Timmymagic »

ArmChairCivvy wrote:Not clear to me which two of these 3 apply as for the locations:
Cyprus?
Vegas (as for those flying them)?
The garage (one in two disassembled into crates)?

Of course, what counts is where circuits can be maintained
Don't believe we have any in Cyprus or Creech anymore. They're all run out of Waddington, for control, and Ali Al Salem airbase in Kuwait.

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by ArmChairCivvy »

There you see the tough part of being a generalist
... can/ may be wrong a lot of the time :)
Ever-lasting truths: Multi-year budgets/ planning by necessity have to address the painful questions; more often than not the Either-Or prevails over Both-And.
If everyone is thinking the same, then someone is not thinking (attributed to Patton)

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Re: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Protector (UCAV) (RAF)

Post by SW1 »

https://www.ga-asi.com/ga-asi-flies-uas ... ian-arctic

A traditional limitation of long-endurance UAS has been their inability to operate at extreme northern (and southern) latitudes, as many legacy SATCOM datalinks can become less reliable above the Arctic (or below the Antarctic) Circle – approximately 66 degrees north. At those latitudes, the low-look angle to geostationary Ku-band satellites begins to compromise the link. GA-ASI has demonstrated a new capability for effective ISR operations by performing a loiter at 78.31° North, using Inmarsat’s L-band Airborne ISR Service (LAISR).

The flight over Haig-Thomas Island, in the Canadian Arctic, demonstrated the UAS’s flexibility by operating at very high latitudes. The flight, which took off on Sept. 7 and returned to the FTTC on Sept. 8, was conducted with cooperation from the Federal Aviation Administration, Transport Canada and Nav Canada.

Covering 4,550 miles in 25.5 hours, it was one of the longest range flights ever flown by a company MQ-9. The flight was performed under an FAA Special Airworthiness Certificate and a Transport Canada Special Flight Operations Certificate.

GA-ASI partnered with Inmarsat Government, a leading provider of secure, global mission-critical telecommunications to the U.S. government in the design, acceptance testing and deployment of an enhanced satellite communications (SATCOM) system. The SATCOM was one of the key enablers of the flight and consisted of a GA-ASI designed L-band High Data Rate system, as well as an Inmarsat Low Data Rate backup datalink that could retain the aircraft’s link to the Ground Control Station even when operating in the high-latitude environment.

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