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MQ-9 Reaper Multi-Domain Variant Completes Maiden Flight

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ (GA-ASI) latest MQ-9 Reaper drone variant has completed its first flight.

The Multi-Domain Operations (M2DO) variant is an upgraded version of the US Air Force’s MQ-9A Block 5 remotely-piloted aircraft.

“We’re excited to position the MQ-9A enterprise for new missions through these capabilities,” GA-ASI US Air Force Programs Vice President Claudia Mowery stated.

“Future funding could potentially expand these capabilities to the entire MQ-9A fleet.”

The Reaper M2DO

The M2DO is compatible with open mission systems, featuring sensors with enhanced reconnaissance capabilities and angle of attack.

Other improvements include seamless navigation, nose wheel steering for directional takeoff/landing control, radar altimeters for more accurate altitude measurement, and power distribution and redundancy.

MQ-9 Reaper in flight
MQ-9 Reaper in flight. Photo: Airman 1st Class William Rio Rosado/USAF

Once it completes development, the M2DO variant will be delivered to the US Air Force and Marine Corps.

The total number of units the services will receive is yet to be revealed.

Other MQ-9 Developments

In 2022, General Atomics announced the development of an MQ-9 short takeoff and landing (STOL) variant that operates in more challenging environments and without a takeoff catapult.

Meanwhile, the US Air National Guard trialed the drone’s new STOL software that lessens crew assistance for flight, maintenance, and refueling.

GA-ASI also partnered with SES and Hughes Network Systems to demonstrate a multi-orbit SATCOM capability for an MQ-9B SkyGuardian variant.

Finally, GA-ASI and Spain-based Sener Aerospacial tested an MQ-9A variant with an under-the-wing compartment for various NATO-standard sensors and related payload configurations.

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