RPAs Can be Modified to Operate in Contested Environments

The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board found that MQ-9 Reapers and RQ-4 Global Hawks can be modified for use in contested environments, and most of the modifications that would be necessary to update the aircraft already exist, board chairman Werner Dahm said Monday. While MQ-1 Predators would likely be useful only to draw fire in a contested environment, Reapers and Global Hawks could be altered for different environments and missions by improving situational awareness, becoming more automated, and by carrying and using weapons. Still, the board recommends the Air Force go through a modeling and testing phase to develop appropriate tactics, techniques, and procedures for those possible future missions, Dahm said. The board also looked at quantum systems, but found “there’s much more hype than reality,” Dahm said. Quantum sensors would be useful because they have better accuracy than inertial measurement units, but can’t be jammed like GPS. However, the Air Force already has equal or better possibilities for secure communication than quantum key distribution and, while there has been significant progress in developing the hardware side of quantum computers, the software lags, he added. The Air Force shouldn’t expect quantum computing anytime soon, Dahm said.