The US Navy has demonstrated its MQ-9 Reaper drone and E-2D airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft to support long-range missile strikes.
Conducted during Operation Neptune Strike 2023, the exercise allowed the unmanned vehicle to receive and pass the coordinates of the target ship to the E-2D Hawkeye.
The AEW aircraft then forwarded the information to a strike force composed of F/A-18 Hornets and Spanish AV-8B Harriers.
The E-2D successfully vectored the strike force to a location away from simulated enemy air defenses so it could begin its attack.
“Having the MQ-9 involved in Operation Neptune Strike was a great opportunity to train with our NATO partners, which we rarely get to do,” MQ-9 liaison officer Maj. Matt Mraz said.
‘Positive, Direct Impact’
The MQ-9 Reaper’s participation in the simulation was commended by military officials who witnessed the event.
The drone reportedly maintained positive identification of the enemy vessel to ensure that the strike force would only hit the chosen target.
It also conducted scans to minimize collateral damage to civilian ships in the area.
After the strike, the Reaper employed its high-performance full-motion video camera for post-attack assessment and relayed the data to Strike Force NATO.
“The cutting-edge capabilities provided by the MQ-9 allowed airmen on the other side of the world to have a positive, direct impact on combat operations … giving Naval Strike and Support Forces NATO the ability to make decisions in real-time and to deliver decisive combat victories,” Carrier Air Wing commander Alex Hampton said.
“This is one example of what the MQ-9 can do for the US Navy to continuously increase NATO’s military capabilities across all warfighting domains.”