General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has successfully completed flight testing of a newly developed Self-Protection Pod (SPP) on an MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).
The demonstration was held on Oct. 28, 2020 at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) in Yuma, Arizona. During the testing, the MQ-9 was able to successfully track Radio Frequency (RF) and Infrared (IR) missile threats, deploy countermeasures, and provide real-time threat awareness and protection in a simulated contested environment.
The project was executed as part of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and with the support of the U.S. Air National Guard (ANG), the U.S. Navy (USN), and industry partners Raytheon Intelligence & Space (RI&S), BAE Systems, Leonardo, Leonardo DRS, and Terma North America.
“Threat awareness and survivability are critical capabilities needed to enable the MQ-9 to operate in a contested environment,” said GA-ASI President, David R. Alexander. “GA-ASI is committed to expanding the mission envelope of the MQ-9 to enable not only the warfighters’ needs of today, but also to ensure the platform remains a survivable, capable, and highly adaptable platform for the future fight.”
The Self-Protection Pod (SPP) leverages mature (TRL9), state-of-the-art Aircraft Survivability Equipment (ASE) to provide full-spectrum awareness and countermeasures. The demonstrated system featured RI&S AN/ALR-69A(V) Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), Leonardo DRS AN/AAQ-45 Distributed Aperture Infrared Countermeasure (DAIRCM) system, Terma AN/ALQ-213 Electronic Warfare Management System (EWMS), BAE Systems AN/ALE-47 Airborne Countermeasures Dispenser System (CMDS) and Leonardo’s BriteCloud Expendable Active Decoy (EAD).
The system is built upon an earlier joint demonstration of a podded AN/ALR-69A(V) RWR in 2017, which demonstrated the utility of an RWR to enhance aircrew situational awareness. The AN/AAQ-45 DAIRCM system utilizes a single sensor for both 2-color IR missile warning and wide field-of-view gimbal for threat countermeasures. The ALE-47 CMDS is used for dispensing airborne flares, chaff, and other airborne decoys. The RF countermeasure of choice demonstrated successfully during testing was BriteCloud EAD, which is a small, self-contained Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM)-based expendable decoy.
At the heart of the SPP is the AN/ALQ-213 EWMS, which provides the interface, health, status, and command and control for the various systems installed in the pod. The AN/ALQ-213 functions as the Aircraft Survivability Equipment (ASE) manager that coordinates between the various threat warning and dispensing systems to automatically dispense the appropriate sequencing pattern and expendables to protect the MQ-9.