Updated on August 20 to reflect Missile Defense Agency contract award.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) said it performed a missile-tracking test using two MQ-9 Predator B remotely piloted aircraft during a recent naval exercise in Hawaii. The Pacific Dragon exercise was conducted June 20-28 from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.
Under a contract with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), GA-ASI supplied two Predator Bs equipped with the Raytheon Multi-spectral Targeting Systems-B (MTS-B) sensor system to detect and track a ballistic missile target. The Predator Bs also participated in exercises with U.S. Navy vessels, GA-ASI said.
“The test provided valuable data in our ongoing effort to develop an effective airborne missile defense capability,” stated CEO Linden Blue, in an announcement on August 16.
(The U.S. Department of Defense on August 19 announced an MDA contract award to GA-ASI for $9.6 million to design, build and test "key laser subsystems" required for precision tracking. "The contractor will develop and demonstrate a MQ-9 flight representative laser system with the beam train optics required to upgrade a multi-spectral targeting system for use as an active tracking sensor. Under this contractual effort, the contractor is to deliver a laser system sized to meet MQ-9 integration requirements," the announcement states. The estimated contract completion date is Sept. 30, 2017; the MDA at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., is the contract agency.)
The MDA plans to develop and test several new technologies, including UAVs, to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles during the ascent phase of flight. “By leveraging unmanned aerial vehicles and space assets for pervasive over-the-horizon sensor netting, the engagement zone of current Standard Missile-3 interceptors can be extended to the pre-apogee portion of a missile’s engagement,” the agency states on its website. “Early intercept can provide an extended engagement layer that avoids wasteful salvos by shooting an interceptor, assessing the attempted intercept, and shooting again if unsuccessful.”
Separately, on August 15 the Department of Defense announced a $371 million U.S. Air Force contract award to GA-ASI to supply 30 MQ-9 Reaper production aircraft. The completion date of the contract, which is supported by Fiscal Year 2014 and 2015 procurement funds, is May 31, 2019.