The MQ-9 Reaper drone becomes undetectable

The MQ-9 Reaper drone becomes undetectable

The new electronic warfare pod makes MQ-9 Reaper UAVs virtually undetectable, boosting their effectiveness in the face of modern threats.

In brief

The US Marine Corps has equipped its MQ-9 Reaper UAVs with a new electronic warfare pod, RDESS/SOAR, which makes them virtually invisible to enemy radar. This device picks up enemy radar transmissions and sends back falsified signals, thereby disrupting enemy systems. This advanced technology enables Reapers to gather crucial information and support friendly forces while remaining at a safe distance from enemy defences. With this pod, Reapers play an essential role in modern combat strategies, particularly against technologically advanced adversaries such as China.

Electronic warfare: the RDESS/SOAR pod

Electronic warfare is a crucial area of modern conflict, where the ability to disrupt and deceive enemy detection systems can determine the outcome of a battle. The RDESS/SOAR system, developed by General Atomics and L3Harris, is a significant advance in this field. This pod, weighing 288 kg, enables MQ-9 Reaper UAVs to blend into the enemy’s electromagnetic environment, making detection extremely difficult.

Features and capabilities of the RDESS/SOAR pod

The RDESS/SOAR is a passive Electronic Support Measurements (ESM) system, capable of collecting and geolocating signals of interest from a safe distance. By picking up enemy radar emissions and sending back falsified signals, it confuses the enemy, disrupting its ability to detect and target UAVs. This technology also enables real-time data to be collected for immediate use or later analysis, optimising decision-making on the battlefield.

The MQ-9 Reaper drone becomes undetectable

Strategic impact of Reaper UAVs equipped with RDESS/SOAR

The addition of the RDESS/SOAR pod to MQ-9 Reaper UAVs transforms them into formidable reconnaissance and electronic warfare platforms. This capability is particularly crucial in the context of the new Littoral Regiments deployed by the Marines in the Chinese Weapons Engagement Zone. These regiments are designed to disrupt maritime lines of communication in the event of conflict, and RDESS/SOAR-equipped Reapers provide the detection and analysis capabilities needed to achieve this objective.

Comparative advantages over previous systems

Compared with previous UAVs such as the RQ-7 Shadow and RQ-21 Blackjack, the MQ-9 Reaper offers a significant improvement in range and capability. The RDESS/SOAR pod reinforces this superiority by adding advanced electronic warfare capabilities. For example, an equipped MQ-9 UAV can operate at altitudes and distances where enemy defences are less effective, while providing precise targeting data for coordinated strikes.

Tactical and strategic consequences

The ability to make drones virtually undetectable is changing the dynamics of modern warfare. Not only does this reduce drone losses, it also means that a continuous surveillance presence can be maintained in enemy territory. This persistence is essential for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations, providing uninterrupted coverage and critical information for commanders on the ground.

Future prospects and implications

The integration of RDESS/SOAR into the MQ-9 Reaper is just the beginning. Future developments could include further improvements in stealth and electronic warfare capabilities. In addition, these technologies could be integrated into other UAV and aircraft systems, extending their utility beyond current conflicts. For example, the military could develop similar systems for new combat drones, increasing their ability to operate in contested airspace.

The addition of the RDESS/SOAR electronic warfare pod to MQ-9 Reaper UAVs marks a significant step in the evolution of electronic warfare. By making UAVs virtually undetectable, this technology offers considerable tactical and strategic advantages. Reapers equipped with this pod can not only survive in hostile environments, but also provide essential detection and disruption capabilities for modern armed forces. This development illustrates the continuing importance of technological innovation in modern warfare and paves the way for future advances in electronic warfare.

War Wings Daily is an independant magazine.