Future of Remotely Piloted Aircraft in Special Operations: Methods to Improve AFSOC MQ-9 Effectiveness for Supporting Special Operations [open pdf - 845KB]
"Unmanned aerial vehicles' support to US special operations forces has grown throughout the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq to find, fix, and finish high-value targets in numerous terrorist networks. As conflicts continue to evolve across multiple new theaters in new environments and countries, several limitations with the MQ-9 and its support network generated the question 'How might Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) MQ-9s be improved to better support special operations teams around the world?' The report utilized a problem/solution framework, with examples presented in scenario vignettes to provide context to the current capabilities and limitations of the MQ-9. The resulting research identified solutions, including several hardware and software upgrades that improve communication, navigation, deconfliction, and weapons employment capabilities of the aircraft. Specifically, adding a second airborne radio, a flight management system (FMS) with certified global positioning system (GPS) navigation and a traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) or an equivalent system will provide safer and more effective flight into the US National Airspace System (NAS) as well as International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) airspace. Secondly, the requirement to quickly adapt new and more weapons to support ground teams would be solved by rapidly incorporating the Universal Armament Interface as well as weaponinzing the outer stations of the MQ-9's external stores. Finally, the research highlighted the need for the preemptive emplacement of subject matter experts, in addition to the liaison officers already in place, to train with special operations teams and units stateside before they are tasked with an operation. These changes will enhance current and future support to special operations and even conventional US military forces in every theater to come."
Wright Flyer Paper no.60
Air University: http://www.au.af.mil/