The Department of Defense is looking to equip MQ-9 UCAV with directed-energy weapons such as low-powered lasers and microwave beams, as well as more familiar weapons, such as laser dazzler for UAVs, unmanned ground attack vehicles as well as naval surface and underwater warships.
Such a series of weapons known as “Moderate Forced Ability” includes: lasers dazzling opponents; non-lethal 12-40 mm munitions, including “direct impact, flash, and electromechanical paralysis towards humans”; long-range audio transmitters; Energy-oriented weapons such as high-powered microwave weapons, and Active Denial Technologies (ADT).
Of particular interest is the idea of developing “high-field optical modules” to act on the human nervous system. The proposal also covers the use of drones to broadcast long-range messages and warnings, as well as access to protective security devices to prevent people from moving into designated areas.
The Pentagon wants low cost weapons that can be mounted on small vehicles, with a volume of less than 1 m3 and a weight of no more than 45 kg; does not require as much operating power or heat generation that does not need a complex cooler.
According to the development plan, the first phase of the project is tasked with developing “non-lethal stimuli” and, according to the US Navy, will not necessarily be tested with human or animal subjects.
To phase II to integrate these non-lethal weapons on manned small tactical vehicles as well as unmanned aircraft. If successful, unmanned attack vehicles such as the MQ-9 have more options to attack the enemy because along with conventional weapons, laser and microwave weapons are also used for these items.
According to the USAF’s admission, even though it is an unmanned strike aircraft, but with the integration of laser and microwave weapons, the MQ-9 operation and maintenance force may be more than serving manned aircraft.
The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has recently used the MQ-9 for a variety of missions, but participation in the Armed Surveillance program will be a completely new role for this type of UAV.
General Mark Kelly, Commander of the Air Combat Command (ACC), recently commented that the MQ-9’s endurance compared to other aircraft makes it an attractive option for operations at places like Africa, where planes need a wide range.
The basic version of the UCAV MQ-9 can operate continuously for 32 hours, while the US Air Force data shows that this UAV has a range of 1,850 km. General Kelly said there are very few UAVs in the world that can last longer than the MQ-9.
Another advantage of this UAV is that in the event of a plane crash, there is no need to deploy forces to rescue the pilot as with a manned plane, which is often potentially dangerous.
General James Slife, head of the Air Force Special Operations Command, recently said that the MQ-9 Reaper can fully participate in the Armed Surveillance program, can easily take off and minimum infrastructure to operate, which are easy to meet in some remote battlefields.
The MQ-9 can be controlled via satellite, but taking off and landing requires ground manpower to assist. In addition, the electronic systems of these UAVs are very easy to maintain.
In the long run, UAVs will play a major role in carrying out operations from fully autonomous bases or autonomous, unmanned ships. However, for the time being, large drones like the MQ-9 Reaper still need some manpower to operate.
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