An electronic intelligence (ELINT) sensor is being added to the Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper. Maker General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) announced a deal with Raytheon Deutschland to add its Advanced Radar Detection System (ARDS) in a pod that will be mounted on the UAV’s centerline.
GA-ASI did not identify a customer for the modification. Linden Blue, the company’s chief executive officer, said that “ARDS will help map air defense radar threats in contested airspace from stand-off distances.” Andreas Radermacher, managing director of Raytheon Deutschland, said, “Predator B deploys our ARDS with significantly greater endurance at much lower cost per flight hour compared with other platforms.”
ARDS was designed and developed by Raytheon’s Germany subsidiary, which provided the emitter location system for the electronic combat version of the Tornado aircraft flown by the German and Italian air forces. ARDS is an all-European system with some modules produced in Spain and the UK. It provides wide-area, high-fidelity detection and direction-finding over land and sea, according to GA-ASI. Flight tests on the UAV are scheduled in the second half of next year, with deliveries possible in 2018.
Although there are no open-source reports of an ELINT system previously being added to U.S. Predators or Reapers, communications intelligence (Comint) sensors play a significant role in the UAV’s counter-terrorist operations. The Comint subsystem of Northrop Grumman’s Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP) was added in 2009-10. Sensors that intercept and geolocate mobile phone signals by mimicking mobile phone base stations—sometimes known as IMSI catchers or grabbers—are also carried by some of the MQ-1/9 fleet.