US Tests MQ-9 Reaper Drone With SATCOM Upgrade

The US has trialed an upgraded satellite communications (SATCOM) capability on an MQ-9 Reaper aerial drone during a multilateral exercise at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.

Led by the Air National Guard-Air Force Reserve Test Center, the demonstration is part of an effort to deploy the drone on future intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions internationally from remote US military bases.

The test was conducted with the US Air Force 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron and the 174th Attack Wing.

SATCOM Upgrade

The Reaper’s upgraded SATCOM utilizes advanced communication technology and sensors to relay data across great distances.

It enables the drone to operate at high altitudes in extended flight while sustaining real-time intelligence gathering of threat activities, positions, and movements.

An MQ-9 Reaper takes off 8 August, 2007 at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada.
An MQ-9 Reaper is seen on August 8, 2007, in Indian Springs, Nevada. Photo: Ethan Miller/AFP

“This SATCOM upgrade will allow pole-to-pole operations while increasing the amount of data or bandwidth the MQ-9 can transmit and receive by more than double and reducing the latency or time of transmission by a factor of 10,” Test Program Manager Maj. Ryan Nastase explained.


The US Air National Guard plans to deploy the SATCOM-upgraded Reaper to support ongoing global US defense operations, military exercises, and other national security missions.

It is expected to enhance the situational awareness of US warfighters and commanders deployed worldwide.

“This upgrade is a game-changer for the MQ-9 and the Air National Guard. We can better support our combatant commanders and provide critical intelligence in real-time,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Harris, Hancock Field ANG Base test pilot at Syracuse, New York.

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