In conjunction with the Air National Guard (ANG), the Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC) and Ultra Electronics, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) successfully completed initial operational assessment of the Rosetta Echo Advanced Payloads (REAP) pod on an MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). The first REAP flight test (known as REAP-1), held August 3 and based out of Syracuse, New York, demonstrated a communications relay network providing seamless connectivity between air and ground participants in the demonstration area. Specific waveforms supported by the REAP pod include Link 16, Ultra High Frequency/Very High Frequency (UHF/VHF) radio and P25 public safety, as well as mobile ad hoc networks (MANET).
«GA-ASI is really excited to showcase the communication capabilities of the REAP pod, which provides the backbone for warfighters to collaborate and share critical battlefield situational awareness. Our MQ-9 Reaper, with its industry-leading persistent endurance, is the ideal platform for connecting sensors to shooters and realizing USAF’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) vision», said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander.
According to the ANG/AATC, a REAP-equipped MQ-9 Reaper relayed video received from a Coyote small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) to a ground node at distances over 110 miles / 177 km. All this was done while simultaneously bridging voice communications over the MANET at extended distances.
Major Curt Wilson, National Guard Bureau (NGB) A5 Branch Chief for Special Mission Aircraft, said: «REAP far exceeded our expectations for a first flight and initial operational assessment. The REAP pod is the first step in a number of innovations that the NGB, Ultra and GA-ASI have pioneered to demonstrate near-term and affordable Joint All-Domain Command & Control (JADC2) capabilities on the MQ-9 Reaper».
The ANG and AATC are working to schedule another flight test in late 2020 with the REAP pod installed on the MQ-9 Reaper. A REAP-2 pod, due for completion in mid-2021, encompasses all of the REAP-1 capability plus 4G/LTE, the addition of which will add disaster relief operations as a capability to its existing military waveform relay and bridging capability. REAP-2 will be integrated into AFRL’s (Air Force Research Laboratory) open architecture AgilePod16 variant, demonstrating GA-ASI’s continued commitment to widely adopting and proliferating Open Mission Systems (OMS) and open architecture. REAP was also featured as part of the second Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) Demo that took place September 1-3, 2020.