《美國空軍》雜志報道 Sept. 24, 2020
With an Eye on China, Reaper Drones Train for Maritime War
The MQ-9 workforce is fighting to keep its place in the Air Force as the service looks to end production of the aircraft and begins scoping out its replacement. The Air Force has grown skeptical that the Reaper could hold its own against advanced nations like Russia and China, which could shoot the non-stealthy aircraft down or jam its transmissions. Military officials worry the Reaper is too vulnerable and lacks the stealth, electronic protections, and speed that planes will need to survive.
In the absence of upgrades that would protect the drone in challenging airspace, the MQ-9 enterprise is adapting its tactics and training to prove useful in a theater of war that looks much different from its typical surroundings.
The exercise at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif., began Sept. 3 and will end Sept. 29. It partners three MQ-9s with the Navy’s Third Fleet, which deploys carrier strike groups, submarines, and other sea vessels and aircraft to the Eastern Pacific, along with Air Force C-130s, and special warfare and Marine Corps personnel, Davis said.
Though Davis declined to provide specifics about the exercise because of operational security concerns, he said MQ-9s were contributing information to a common operating picture that helped the Navy decide where to strike. Reaper operators handled maritime strike coordination and reconnaissance, counter-fast attack craft operations, and close air support over water.
For strike coordination and reconnaissance missions, Reapers would pick up on activity in the area and ensure other aircraft are clear to fly in and fire at their targets. MQ-9 unit commanders have discussed bolstering that and similar missions for at least three years as anti-aircraft threats grow around the world and the Pentagon’s priorities began to change.