MQ-9 Reaper drone equipped with new EW pod that makes it a ‘black hole’ that can ‘disappear off of enemy radar,’ top Marine general says

An MQ-9 Reaper drone.

The US Marine Corps has equipped its MQ-9 Reaper drones with a new electronic warfare pod.The pod “can mimic things that are sent to it,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith said.The announcement follows the drone’s struggles against the Houthi Rebels.

The US Marine Corps has equipped its MQ-9 Reaper drones with a new electronic warfare pod that can “mimic” signals to help hide them from enemy sensors, a top US Marine Corps general has said, The War Zone reported.

Speaking at a Brookings Institution forum last week, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith said: The pod “can mimic, I’ll be careful here, it can mimic things that are sent to it that it detects, turn it around and send it back.”

“So it becomes a hole. A black hole. It becomes mostly undetectable,” he added.

The 634-pound pod, known as the Reaper Defense Electronic Support System/Scalable Open Architecture Reconnaissance (RDESS/SOAR), will allow the Reaper drone “to somewhat disappear off of enemy radar.”

The US first tested the pod, which was developed by General Atomics and L3Harris Technologies, in 2021.

A press release from the time describes the pod as “a broad spectrum, passive Electronic Support Measure (ESM) payload designed to collect and geo-locate signals of interest from standoff ranges.”

It says that its addition to the Reaper helps it become “an even more versatile surveillance aircraft given its ability to conduct electronic sensing well enough to provide high quality intelligence but also keep safely away in friendly or international airspace.”

The comments from Smith come off the back of the US Navy’s intense battle against Yemen’s Houthi rebels around the Red Sea.

The 36-foot-long Reaper struggled somewhat against the Iran-backed militant group, which claimed to have shot down a number of the drones.

“The Houthis have gained access to surface-to-air missiles that have the performance to reach those speeds and altitudes against a large, unstealthy aircraft, courtesy of Iran,” Peter Wilson, Senior Defense Policy Analyst at RAND, told Business Insider.

And the MQ-9 would face a far sterner test against the air defenses and detection capabilities of an enemy such as China, so the new pod could prove vital in helping keep the drone relevant.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis release footage showing American MQ-9 Reaper UAV being shot down over Yemeni territorial waters.

— Clash Report (@clashreport) November 8, 2023

The Marine Corps began operating MQ-9 Reaper drones in 2018.

According to the US Air Force, the Reaper is mostly used for collecting intelligence and “secondarily against dynamic execution targets.”

Peter Wilson noted that the drone is in itself “very useful” and “can be honored.”

“It was one of the most successful unmanned combat air vehicles used during our protracted counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and in dealing with ISIS and also even in Afghanistan. But there, the locals didn’t have the kind of weapons that the Houthis have gained access to through Iran,” he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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