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US Air Force Trials Satellite Launch and Recovery Solution With Reaper Drone in Poland

The US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA) have demonstrated the Satellite Launch and Recovery Package or SLR-P with an MQ-9A Reaper in Poland.

The SLR-P is a compact solution incorporating launch and recovery support capabilities for drones deployed in remote and rugged environments.

Using the package eliminates traditional approaches of returning a system to its home station for maintenance.

In addition, the SLR-P’s integrated satellite technology enables seamless connection to minimize pre-mission preparations, reduce downtime, and enhance mission readiness.

Supporting Agile Combat Employment

The SLR-P tested in Poland was developed specifically for the European and African theaters.

It includes a small mobile container and inventory list to specify unique requirements and environmental differences of each region the service covers.

The container is configurable with attachable wheels and can be towed or carried by many means of transportation, depending on the mission.

A mobile container from U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa’s 435th Contingency Response sits ready as a part of the Satellite Launch and Recover Package for a proof of concept on the MQ-9A Reaper in Mirosławiec, Poland, Aug. 30, 2023. Tailored specifically for the European and African theaters, the SLR-P consists of a small container that can be retrofitted with its own wheels to be towed or be carried by any means of available transportation. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt Gabriele Gocso)
A mobile container sits ready as a part of the Satellite Launch and Recover Package for a proof of concept on the MQ-9A Reaper in Mirosławiec. Photo: 2nd Lt Gabriele Gocso/US Air Force

“We live in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, which means it takes an innovative and motivated group of people – like what you see here – to influence change and propel us into the future,” USAFE-AFAFRICA Project Lead Maj. Philip West said.

“With this technology, we’re putting the ‘A’ in ‘ACE’ (Agile Combat Employment) for the MQ-9A.”

Fewer Boots on the Ground

According to the US Air Force, the SLR-P can reduce the “boots on the ground” required to sustain and operate precision systems such as the MQ-9A.

Around 30 to 150 personnel are needed to facilitate remotely piloted tasks. Compared to this traditional setup, the SLR-P only requires an aircrew of eight operators.

Airmen from USAFE-AFAFRICA’s 435th Contingency Response Group (CRG) participated in the recent activity and acted as the MQ-9A’s crew.

MQ-9A Predator Drone
MQ-9A Predator Drone. photo: General Atomics

“The creation of the CRG 25 years ago aimed to extend airpower beyond our main bases,” 435th CRG Commander Col. Robert Rayner said.

“While our primary mission is supporting mobility operations, we’ve adapted our capabilities to respond to what the Air Force, and specifically what USAFE, needs.”

“Today, we’re launching and recovering MQ-9As, but tomorrow it could be F-16s, and the next day, C-17s. Whatever the requirement, the 435th CRG remains light, lean and lethal to support.”

Bolstering Polish, NATO Ties

Alongside remotely piloted operations, the demonstration highlighted the efforts of the US and Polish military to share security goals and technological progress, the Air Force wrote.

“Hosting this first-ever proof of concept underscores Poland’s commitment to protecting not only Polish sovereignty but also fulfilling its obligation as a pivotal member of the NATO alliance,” Polish Air Force 12th UAV Air Base Commander Col. Marcin Szubiński stated.

“We are proud to contribute to testing this capability, building on our five-year history of implementing cutting-edge ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) technologies within EU airspace by prioritizing interoperability with our NATO allies while refining procedures and capabilities as needed.”

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